, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 110-117

Redundant food searches by capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella): a failure of metacognition?

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Abstract

This study investigated capuchin monkeys' understanding of their own visual search behavior as a means to gather information. Five monkeys were presented with three tubes that could be visually searched to determine the location of a bait. The bait's visibility was experimentally manipulated, and the monkeys' spontaneous visual searches before tube selection were analyzed. In Experiment 1, three monkeys selected the baited tube significantly above chance; however, the monkeys also searched transparent tubes. In Experiment 2, a bent tube in which food was never visible was introduced. When the bent tube was baited, the monkeys failed to deduce the bait location and responded randomly. They also continued to look into the bent tube despite not gaining any pertinent information from it. The capuchin monkeys' behavior contrasts with the efficient employment of visual search behavior reported in humans, apes and macaques. This difference is consistent with species-related variations in metacognitive abilities, although other explanations are also possible.