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On the role of interference in sequence learning in Guinea baboons (Papio papio)


It is well established that decay and interference are the two main causes of forgetting. In the present study, we specifically focus on the impact of interference on memory forgetting. To do so, we tested Guinea baboons (Papio papio) on a visuo-motor adaptation of the Serial Reaction Time task in which a target sequence is repeated, and a random sequence is interposed between repetitions, a similar situation as the one used in the Hebb repetition paradigm. In this task, one three-item sequence, the repeated sequence, was presented every second trial and interleaved with random sequences. Interference was implemented by using random sequences containing one item that was also part of the repeated sequence. In a first condition, the overlapping item was located at the same position as the repeated sequence. In a second condition, the overlapping item was located at one of the two other positions. In a third condition, there was no overlap between repeated and random sequences. Contrary to previous findings, our results reveal similar learning slopes across all three conditions, suggesting that interference did not affect sequence learning in the conditions tested. Findings are discussed in the light of previous research on sequence learning and current models of memory and statistical learning.

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The datasets generated and analyzed during the current study are available via the Open Science Framework and can be accessed at:

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  1. Thus, the inter-stimulus interval depends on the moment the baboon decides to press the yellow fixation cross. As the length of the inter-stimulus interval can help subjects to separate trials and eventually help to minimize interference between trials, it is important to mention that we deliberately decided to let the baboons initiate the next trials in order to make sure that they are alert after having been rewarded with the grains. For a video, see

  2. As this condition was the same as in our previous study, we only retained the 500 first trials in order to compare the results across experiments.

  3. We compared the learning slope of Position 1 with the mean slope of Positions 2 + 3 because if learning takes place, we should observe a steeper learning slope for the predictable Positions 2 and 3 compared to the less predictable Position 1. Moreover, averaging both predictable positions allowed us to obtain more data points and thus more robust results.


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This work was supported by the CHUNKED ANR project (#ANR-17-CE28-0013-02) and the ERC advanced grant (#POP-R 742141).


This work was supported by the CHUNKED ANR project (#ANR-17-CE28-0013-02) and the ERC advanced grant (#POP-R 742141).

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Authors and Affiliations



Laura Ordonez Magro conceptualized the design, collected the data, conducted the data analyses, and wrote the paper; Joël Fagot conceptualized the design; Jonathan Grainger helped to write the paper; Arnaud Rey conceptualized the design, conducted data analyses, and helped to write the paper.

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Correspondence to Laura Ordonez Magro.

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The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.

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This research adhered to the applicable French rules for ethical treatment of research animals and received ethical approval from the French Ministery of Education (approval APAFIS#2717-2015111708173794 10 v3).

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The data and materials for all experiments are available at: and none of the experiments was preregistered.

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Appendix 1

Mean response times over a group of 13 baboons for each of the 72 possible transitions calculated from 1,000 random trials. For example, consider the transition [4-8] from Positions 4–8 (4 being the first position of the transition and 8 being the second position). When the red circle was on Position 4, baboons touched it and the target moved to Position 8. The mean response times for that transition [4-8], i.e., 482 ms, corresponds to the time baboons took on average to move from Position 4 to Position 8 (i.e., from the baboon’s touch on Position 4 to the baboon’s touch on Position 8).

First position in transition Second position in transition
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1   426 421 438 365 360 447 359 371
2 506   457 411 377 393 391 365 393
3 502 435   443 368 353 439 372 365
4 486 423 448   366 374 434 339 358
5 485 408 378 444   345 449 392 380
6 477 383 379 426 344   448 384 418
7 472 424 435 423 370 381   374 371
8 445 388 401 396 342 367 443   396
9 487 403 410 425 334 361 437 362  

Appendix 2

Mean response times (RTs) per block for both random and repeated sequences and for each condition. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

figure a

Appendix 3

Mean slopes for both random and repeated sequences and for each condition. Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

figure b

Note that paired t-tests on the regression slopes showed steeper regression slopes for repeated compared to random sequences for the three conditions, confirming our analyses that learning takes place in all three conditions.

Condition 1: t(16) = -6.87, p < .001

Condition 2: t(16) = -6.06, p < .001

Condition 3: t(16) = -4.84, p < .001

Moreover, paired t-tests showed that the regression slopes for the random sequences are all positive and significantly larger than zero for Conditions 1 and not significantly different from zero for Condition 2 and 3, indicating that learning did not take place for the random sequences. As to the repeated sequences, analyses show that the slopes for all three conditions are negative and significantly smaller than zero, indicating that learning took place for the repeated sequences.

   t df p
Random sequences
  Condition1 2.353 16 <.05
  Condition2 0.705 16 0.491
  Condition3 1.930 16 0.072
Repeated sequences
  Condition1 -4.703 16 <.001
  Condition2 -6.832 16 <.001
  Condition3 -3.122 16 <.01

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Ordonez Magro, L., Fagot, J., Grainger, J. et al. On the role of interference in sequence learning in Guinea baboons (Papio papio). Learn Behav (2022).

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  • Statistical learning
  • Sequence learning
  • Memory
  • Forgetting
  • Interference