Do Chimpanzees Have Expectations about Reward Presentation Following Correct Performance on Computerized Cognitive Testing?

By Beran, Michael J. | The Psychological Record, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Do Chimpanzees Have Expectations about Reward Presentation Following Correct Performance on Computerized Cognitive Testing?


Beran, Michael J., The Psychological Record


To investigate whether 2 chimpanzees had expectations regarding the outcome of their responses on a computerized task, food reward that typically was given for correct responses was withheld on some correctly completed trials. There were two types of these probe trials: those which the chimpanzees performed correctly on their own, and those during which the chimpanzees needed the experimenter's assistance to complete the trial correctly. For both chimpanzees, reward procurement behaviors directed toward the experimenter occurred significantly more often on correctly completed probe trials than on incorrectly completed trials. This indicated increased expectation of food reward on correct trials as compared to incorrect trials. For 1 of the 2 chimpanzees, reward procurement behaviors were significantly more likely to occur on probe trials on which the chimpanzee received no assistance from the experimenter than on trials in which the experimenter assisted the chimpanzee. This behavioral difference was not pre dicated on reinforcement history, as all correctly completed nonprobe trials were rewarded whether or not assistance was provided by the experimenter. These data indicate that this chimpanzee may have a rudimentary sense of "equity" regarding what outcome should accompany the successful completion of trials that is dependent on the level of assistance provided by an experimenter during the trial.

De Waal (1991) described behaviors in chimpanzees that reflected the chimpanzees' sense of how others should or should not behave. He defined this sense for chimpanzees as "a set of expectations about the way in which oneself (or others) should be treated and how resources should be divided, a deviation from which expectations to one's (or the other's) disadvantage evokes a negative reaction" (de Waal, 1991, p. 336, italics in the original). De Waal (1991) stated that rules emerge when these animals learn the relationship between their behavior and the behavior of others. The circumspect manner in which these rules are violated provides some evidence of the animals' recognition of them. Familiarity with the rules is so great among chimpanzees that some individuals may act as informants about others' transgressions of those rules (de Waal, 1991).

In captivity, chimpanzees regularly engage in social interactions with their human caregivers in a variety of contexts. The humans develop expectations regarding the behavior of the chimpanzees in certain situations (such as moving for cleaning or partaking in basic husbandry procedures). A violation of those expectations can produce frustration in the human caregivers. The chimpanzees also learn contingencies between the behavior of themselves and that of their caregivers. For example, they may learn that preferred food is provided only after the chimpanzees move to holding areas so that humans can complete cleaning of the home cages. When these established contingencies are violated, the chimpanzees may show behaviors that are comparable to the frustration exhibited by humans who have had their expectations violated. To give a concrete example from our laboratory, an individual chimpanzee that sees the other animals in its colony receive fruit but that does not receive fruit itself during afternoon feeding s may gesture toward a caretaker, pout its lips out toward the experimenter, or even smack the cage wire to get the caretaker's attention. The chimpanzee directs these gestures toward the experimenter and not toward other things such as the refrigerator or toward the other chimpanzees.

To examine the expectations of nonhuman animals experimentally, researchers remove rewards from a testing situation in which the rewards were typically provided. Amsel (1958, 1962) studied rats in runway mazes and found that speed of running increased after reward was omitted or diminished on an initial runway. Melges and Poppen (1976) found that when monkeys were trained on a differential rate of reinforcement for low rates of response, increases in the delay interval before reinforcement led to the monkeys becoming highly agitated, and they manifested frustrative behaviors such as biting their fingers, shaking the cage, and vocalizing. …

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Do Chimpanzees Have Expectations about Reward Presentation Following Correct Performance on Computerized Cognitive Testing?
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