Effects of training condition on the contribution of specific items to relational processing in baboons (Papio papio).Anim Cogn. 2014 Jul; 17(4):911-24.AC
Relational processing involves learning about the relationship between or among stimuli, transcending the individual stimuli, so that abstract knowledge generalizable to novel situations is acquired. Relational processing has been studied in animals as well as in humans, but little attention has been paid to the contribution of specific items to relational thinking or to the factors that may affect that contribution. This study assessed the intertwined effects of item and relational processing in nonhuman primates. Using a procedure that entailed both expanding and contracting sets of pictorial items, we trained 13 baboons on a two-alternative forced-choice task, in which they had to distinguish horizontal from vertical relational patterns. In Experiment 1, monkeys engaged in item-based processing with a small training set size, and they progressively engaged in relation-based processing as training set size was increased. However, in Experiment 2, overtraining with a small stimulus set promoted the processing of item-based information. These findings underscore similarities in how humans and nonhuman primates process higher-order stimulus relations.