Rhesus monkeys metacognitively monitor memories of the order of events.Sci Rep. 2018 08 01; 8(1):11541.SR
Human working memory is a capacity- and duration-limited system in which retention and manipulation of information is subject to metacognitive monitoring and control. At least some nonhuman animals appear to also monitor and control the contents of working memory, but only relatively simple cases where animals monitor or control the presence or absence of single memories have been studied. Here we combine a comparatively complex order memory task with methodology that assesses the capacity to introspect about memory. Monkeys observed sequential presentations of five images, and at test, reported which of two images from the list had appeared first during study. Concurrently, they chose to complete or avoid these tests on a trial-by-trial basis. Monkeys "knew when they knew" the correct response. They were less accurate discriminating images that had appeared close in time to one another during study and were more likely to avoid these difficult tests than they were to avoid easier tests. These results indicate that monkeys can metacognitively monitor relatively complex properties of the contents of working memory, including the quality of representations of temporal relations among images.