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Relative contributions of goal representation and kinematic information to self-monitoring by chimpanzees and humans

Takaaki Kaneko and Masaki Tomonaga

It is important to monitor feedback related to the intended result of an action while executing that action. This monitoring process occurs hierarchically; that is, sensorimotor processing occurs at a lower level, and conceptual representation of action goals occurs at a higher level. Although the hierarchical nature of self-monitoring may derive from the evolutionary history of humans, little is known about this cognitive process in non-human primates. This study showed that the relative contributions of kinematic information and goal representations to self-monitoring differ for chimpanzees and humans. Both species performed aiming actions whereby participants moved a cursor to hit targets. Additionally, a distractor cursor was presented simultaneously, and participants discriminated the cursor under their control from the cursor not under their control. The results showed that chimpanzees found it difficult to determine whether they were controlling the distractor when it moved toward the target, even though the distractor's kinematics and the participant's actions were dissociated. In contrast, humans performed efficiently regardless of any overlap between the presumptive and observed goals of the action. Our results suggest that goal representation, rather than motor kinematics, is the primary source of information for self-monitoring in chimpanzees, whereas humans efficiently integrate both dimensions of information. Our results are consistent with evidence showing species differences during imitation of others' actions, and suggest that humans have evolved the cognitive capacity to monitor motor kinematics in a more flexible manner than have chimpanzees. 


Cognition(2012): 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.07.006


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