About this item:

651 Views | 215 Downloads

Author Notes:

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Regina Paxton, Department of Psychology, Emory University, 36 Eagle Row, Atlanta, Georgia 30322. rpaxton@emory.edu

Ikuma Adachi is now at Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Aichi, Japan.

Contributor Information Regina Paxton, Department of Psychology, Emory University and Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Benjamin M. Basile, Department of Psychology, Emory University and Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

Ikuma Adachi, Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Wendy A. Suzuki, Center for Neural Science, New York University.

Mark E. Wilson, Division of Psychobiology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Robert R. Hampton, Department of Psychology, Emory University and Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

Acknowledgements: We thank Jane J. Na for help with preparing stimuli and testing subjects and Juliet Ward and Jeff Fisher for help filming monkeys.


Research Funding:

This work was supported by a grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation, by Yerkes Center base grant RR-00165 awarded by the Animal Resources Program of the National Institutes of Health, and by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience under the STC Program of the National Science Foundation under Agreement IBN-9876754.

The work of I.A. was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.


  • Social cognition
  • observation
  • social behavior
  • hierarchy
  • computerized testing

Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) rapidly learn to select dominant individuals in videos of artificial social interactions between unfamiliar conspecifics


Journal Title:

Journal of Comparative Psychology


Volume 124, Number 4


, Pages 395-401

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Social animals, such as primates, must behave appropriately in complex social situations such as dominance interactions. Learning dominance information through trial and error would be dangerous, therefore cognitive mechanisms for rapid learning of dominance information by observation would be adaptive. We used a set of digitally edited artificial social interactions to examine whether rhesus monkeys can learn dominance relationships between unfamiliar conspecifics through observation. Our method allowed random assignment of stimulus monkeys to ranks in an artificial hierarchy, controlling for non-behavioral cues that could indicate dominance. Subject monkeys watched videos depicting one stimulus monkey behaving dominantly toward another, and were rewarded for selecting the dominant individual. Monkeys rapidly learned this discrimination across five behavior types in Experiment 1, and transferred performance to novel videos of new individuals in Experiment 2. Additionally, subjects selected the dominant individual more often than expected by chance in probe videos containing no behavioral dominance information, indicating some retention of the relative dominance status of stimulus monkeys from training. Together, our results suggest that monkeys can learn dominance hierarchies through observation of third-party social interactions.

Copyright information:

© 2010, American Psychological Association

Export to EndNote