Michael J. Beran, Ph.D.
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Last updated: 
September 1, 2021



Smith, J. D., Redford, J. S., Beran, M. J., & Washburn, D. A. (2010). Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) adaptively monitor uncertainty while multi-tasking. Animal Cognition, 13, 93-101. 

As researchers explore animals’ capacity for metacognition and uncertainty monitoring, some paradigms allow the criticism that animal participants—who are always extensively trained in one stimulus domain within which they learn to avoid difficult trials—use task-specific strategies to avoid aversive stimuli instead of responding to a generalized state of uncertainty like that humans might use. We addressed this criticism with an uncertainty-monitoring task environment in which four different task domains were interleaved randomly trial by trial. Four of five macaques (Macaca mulatta) were able to make adaptive uncertainty responses while multi-tasking, suggesting the generality of the psychological signal that occasions these responses. The findings suggest that monkeys may have an uncertainty-monitoring capacity that is like that of humans in transcending task-specific cues and extending simultaneously to multiple domains.

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