Memory updating in animals

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During this task, we examined the chimpanzees’ working memory capacity and how they used the box’s location and its features to memorise their previous choices.We tested this by presenting chimpanzees with a version of the task with identical-looking boxes, and a version in which we shuffled different-looking boxes between each search.After each choice they would have to update their memory.Only if they managed to continuously keep in mind which boxes they had already chosen, and which boxes still contained food, would they be able to retrieve all of the food items within the number of choices that they got.But our study provides evidence that chimpanzees possess similar working memory abilities to humans.They’re able to perform at a level comparable to seven-year-old children in a working memory task that requires them to constantly update their memory.The chimpanzees first watched how pieces of food were hidden in all of these boxes.They then started to search for the food items by pointing at the boxes one by one.

Depending on the chimpanzees’ ability to avoid revisiting a box they had already chosen, we increased the difficulty of the task by increasing the number of boxes.Along with other researchers from the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, I set out to answer this question.Previous studies showed that chimpanzees have excellent short-term and long-term memory abilities.If a chosen box contained food, the chimpanzees received this food reward and the now empty box was then placed back in between the other boxes.After each choice, the boxes were covered with a screen for 15 seconds.

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