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

 

 

Beran, M. J., Evans, T. A., & Hoyle, D. (2011). Numerical judgments by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in a token economy. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 37, 165-174.

We presented four chimpanzees with a series of tasks that involved comparing two token sets or comparing a token set to a quantity of food. Selected tokens could be exchanged for food items on a one-to-one basis. Chimpanzees successfully selected the larger numerical set for comparisons of 1 to 5 items when both sets were visible and when sets were presented through one-by-one addition of tokens into two opaque containers. Two of four chimpanzees used the number of tokens and food items to guide responding in all conditions, rather than relying on token color, size, total amount, or duration of set presentation. These results demonstrate that judgments of simultaneous and sequential sets of stimuli are made by some chimpanzees on the basis of the numerousness of sets rather than other non-numerical dimensions. The tokens were treated as equivalent to food items on the basis of their numerousness, and the chimpanzees maximized reward by choosing the larger number of items in all situations.

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