Chimps know when they are right

New York, June 9 (IANS) Just like humans, chimpanzees too can display confidence when they are right, new research says.

Our primate cousins are capable of metacognition and can adjust their behaviour accordingly, the researchers found.

Metacognition occurs when individuals monitor what they know and do not know, when they seek information they need to know and when they respond to a question with high or low confidence.

Confidence measures are clear means of looking at how humans monitor their own knowledge status.

The research team wanted to know if non-human animals show similar behavioural indications of confidence and uncertainty.

“The results suggest that chimpanzees show similar behaviour to humans,” said Michael Beran, associate director of the Language Research Centre at Georgia State University.

In the study, three chimpanzees were given a series of computerised tests of their memory.

After each memory test, there was a short delay before the computer programme gave feedback about whether the answer given by the chimpanzees was correct or incorrect.

A few seconds later, if the answer was correct, a food reward was delivered. The critical aspect of this study was that rewards were delivered away from where the chimpanzees worked on the memory test.

If the chimpanzees had not moved to that location when rewards were delivered, the rewards were lost and could not be recovered.

Across the series of experiments, the chimpanzees consistently showed that they monitored the strength of their memories and acted accordingly.

They were much more likely to move to the reward area early, before they had any feedback from the computer programme, when they gave correct answers than when they gave incorrect ones.

The results suggest that chimpanzees share the capacity of metacognitive monitoring with humans, which reflects a form of cognitive control that underlies intelligent decision-making across species.

The results were detailed in the journal Cognition.

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