Dealing With Interference: Chimpanzees Respond to Conflicting Cues in a Food-Choice Memory Task

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Abstract

Interference effects emerge when responding on the basis of task-relevant features is directly pitted against task-irrelevant cues that could lead to errors. To study potential interference effects in a food-choice memory test, 3 chimpanzees were presented with conflicting information in a magnitude judgment task. In Experiment 1, chimpanzees were presented with an ordinal series of colored containers that they sequenced on the basis of relative preference for the different foods that were consistently hidden under the containers. Chimpanzees also were presented with a relative quantity judgment task in which they saw identical containers cover different amounts of a consistent food type. Then, the ordinal and quantity tasks were combined such that the colored containers from the ordinal task were used as covers for the consistent food type from the quantity task. This created instances of congruency (e.g., a highly preferred colored container placed over the largest food quantity) and incongruency (e.g., a highly preferred colored container placed over a small food quantity) between task-relevant and task-irrelevant features. Interference effects were evident when chimpanzees responded on the basis of task-irrelevant features (i.e., container value) rather than task-relevant features (i.e., food quantity), sometimes leading to suboptimal responses in incongruent trial types. Chimpanzees also demonstrated some evidence of the cognitive control needed to inhibit responding based solely on the learned values of the containers.

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