Capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) use a laser pointer to indicate distal objects
Stone, Brian William
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Given the limitations inherent to two popular cognitive testing paradigms used with captive non-human primates - reaching tasks and computerized tasks - a complementary methodology that circumvents these limitations would be helpful in increasing ecological validity. We trained monkeys to use a joystick-controlled laser pointer to indicate distal objects and locations. Subjects were five male capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella), two of which acquired skillful control of the laser pointer in experiment 1 and demonstrated efficient control in numerous generalized conditions in experiment 2. In experiment 3, subjects used the laser pointer to make genuine choices between an array of distal food items varying in terms of type, size and distance. Subjects failed to show evidence of during-task gaze alternation, suggesting the laser pointer was not used as an imperative point. Finally, we discuss the applications and limitations of the laser pointer setup, including fruitful areas of future testing.