Original Article

Animal Cognition

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 253-262

Expectations about numerical events in four lemur species (Eulemur fulvus, Eulemur mongoz, Lemur catta and Varecia rubra)

  • Laurie R. SantosAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Yale University Email author 
  • , Jennifer L. BarnesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Yale University
  • , Neha MahajanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Yale University

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Abstract

Although much is known about how some primates—in particular, monkeys and apes—represent and enumerate different numbers of objects, very little is known about the numerical abilities of prosimian primates. Here, we explore how four lemur species (Eulemur fulvus, E. mongoz, Lemur catta, and Varecia rubra) represent small numbers of objects. Specifically, we presented lemurs with three expectancy violation looking time experiments aimed at exploring their expectations about a simple 1+1 addition event. In these experiments, we presented subjects with displays in which two lemons were sequentially added behind an occluder and then measured subjects’ duration of looking to expected and unexpected outcomes. In experiment 1, subjects looked reliably longer at an unexpected outcome of only one object than at an expected outcome of two objects. Similarly, subjects in experiment 2 looked reliably longer at an unexpected outcome of three objects than at an expected outcome of two objects. In experiment 3, subjects looked reliably longer at an unexpected outcome of one object twice the size of the original than at an expected outcome of two objects of the original size. These results suggest that some prosimian primates understand the outcome of simple arithmetic operations. These results are discussed in light of similar findings in human infants and other adult primates.

Keywords

Prosimians Lemurs Expectancy violation paradigm Number representation