Animal Cognition

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 387–396 | Cite as

Mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus lunulatus) solve the reverse contingency task without a modified procedure

  • Anna Albiach-Serrano
  • Federico Guillén-Salazar
  • Josep Call
Original Paper


Problem solving often relies on generating new responses while inhibiting others, particularly prepotent ones. A paradigm to study inhibitory abilities is the reverse contingency task (Boysen and Berntson in J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process 21:82–86, 1995), in which two different quantities of food are offered to an individual who receives the array he did not choose. Therefore, mastery of the task demands selecting the smaller quantity to obtain the larger one. Several non-human primates have been tested in the reverse contingency task. To date, only great apes and rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) have succeeded in the original task, with no need of procedural modifications as the large-or-none contingency, correction trials or symbolic stimuli substituting for actual food quantities. Here, four mangabeys were presented with two stimulus arrays of one and four raisins in the context of the reverse contingency task. Three of them learned to perform the task well above chance without a modified procedure. They also reached above-chance performance when presented with two stimulus arrays of zero and four raisins, despite the initial difficulty of choosing a null quantity. After a period of 7–10 months, in which the animals were not tested on any task, all three subjects continued to perform well, even when presented with novel quantity pairs.


Inhibitory control Reverse contingency task Monkeys Quantity discrimination 



This study was supported by a granting-aid for Scientific Research (PRUCH 04/27) from the Universidad Cardenal Herrera (Valencia, Spain) and a grant from the Spanish Science and Education Ministry as part of the Spanish–German integrated actions program (Reference: HA2005-0010). We thank Valencia Zoo, and especially the zookeepers, for their collaboration in the study and Lluís Ros-Martí for his help with the construction of the test apparatus and the design of Fig. 1. Finally, we would like to thank four anonymous reviewers for providing their insightful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The animals used in this research were treated in accordance with Spanish law (Real Decreto 1201/2005).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Albiach-Serrano
    • 1
  • Federico Guillén-Salazar
    • 1
  • Josep Call
    • 2
  1. 1.Unidad de Etología y Bienestar AnimalUniversidad Cardenal HerreraMoncada (Valencia)Spain
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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