Do capuchin monkeys ( Cebus apella ) use tokens as symbols?

Our study evaluated whether capuchins, after learning to exchange two types of tokens for different quantities of the same food, maximized their pay-off when offered binary choices between various quantities of tokens A and B

E Addessi

2007

Scholarcy highlights

  • Following classical semiotic theory–58, see, a symbol is a sign related to its referent through the conventions agreed upon by a community of users
  • Our study evaluated whether capuchins, after learning to exchange two types of tokens for different quantities of the same food, maximized their pay-off when offered binary choices between various quantities of tokens A and B
  • In experiment 1, four out of ten capuchins maximized pay-off by taking into account both token numerousness and what each token represents; at least in some conditions, they correctly chose the highest value offers since the first sessions
  • This flexible strategy indicates a relativistic concept of relations, i.e. the appreciation that an object can have different properties depending on the properties of the object(s) it is put in relation with
  • We found that, at least to some extent, capuchins’ performance depended on the ratio between the number of food items represented by token offers
  • Of the remaining six capuchins, two consistently used token numerousness as a criterion for choice, i.e. their performance significantly increased with the number of tokens A presented

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