Development of future oriented spatial problem solving
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Theories of spatial navigation hypothesize that animals use vector or topological information to choose routes, which often includes indirect routes or detours around obstacles, to move objects or themselves to goal locations. Examining how adult capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) learn to navigate through computer-presented 2-dimensional mazes reveals that they develop a set of skills to solve these problems. Subjects were significantly less likely to choose the correct paths when detours were required than when not, which at the minimum suggests that they used planful solutions at each choice based on the goal location, as if they had utilized vector information from the current location to the goal location. Every subject transferred performance on original mazes to novel mazes with equivalent proportion of correct choices, which suggests that they learned general planning skills for maze navigation regardless of the specific mazes they had practiced. One out of three subjects in the less practiced group (Group 1) and two out of three subjects in the practice-to-asymptote group (Group 2) learned to detour efficiently (i.e., make significantly more correct choices at choice points which required them to choose a path that led eventually to the goal but pointed directly away from the goal). Two subjects at the final phase made correct choices at the same rate as chimpanzees on the same problems as reported by Fragaszy et al. (2009). Together, the findings suggest that the boundaries of any individual’s navigational abilities are not fixed properties of a species, but depend on experience.