Assessing the impact of language training on working memory in orangutans Open Access

Bouguyon, Kamin Laurent (2017)

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While non-human primates show evidence of having working memory, they lack language. In humans, language improves working memory. Some great apes have been trained to associate icons or gestures with objects and actions, a process often called language training. Whether this language training affects working memory in nonhuman primates the way language does in humans is yet to be explored. We first tested whether orangutans use working memory in a delayed matching-to-sample task by including trials in which orangutans had to touch an intervening image and trials in which they did not. We found evidence that orangutans use working memory in a delayed matching-to-sample task. We also tested Chantek, a language trained orangutan, with images for which he had previously learned signs and images for which he hadn't learned signs and compared his performance to that of the other orangutans. Chantek's accuracy for images for which he had signs was lower than those for which he did not. This suggests that language in orangutans, unlike in humans, does not improve working memory but rather impairs it.

Table of Contents

Introduction - 1

General Methods - 5

Experiment 1 - 6

Experiment 2 - 12

General Discussion - 15

References - 20

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