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Data from: The origins of cognitive flexibility in chimpanzees

Citation

Cantwell, Averill; Buckholtz, Joshua; Atencia, Rebeca; Rosati, Alexandra (2022), Data from: The origins of cognitive flexibility in chimpanzees, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4xgxd25c9

Abstract

Cognitive flexibility is a core component of executive function, a suite of cognitive capacities that enables individuals to update their behavior in dynamic environments. Human executive functions are proposed to be enhanced compared to other species, but this inference is based primarily on neuroanatomical studies. To address this, we examined the nature and origins of cognitive flexibility in chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. Across three studies, we examined different components of cognitive flexibility using reversal learning tasks where individuals first learned one contingency and then had to shift responses when contingencies flipped. In Study 1, we tested n = 82 chimpanzees ranging from juvenility to adulthood on a spatial reversal task, to characterize the development of basic shifting skills. In Study 2, we tested how n  = 24 chimpanzees use spatial versus arbitrary perceptual information to shift, a proposed difference between human and nonhuman cognition. In Study 3, we tested n = 40 chimpanzees on a probabilistic reversal task. We found an extended developmental trajectory for basic shifting and shifting in response to probabilistic feedback—chimpanzees did not reach mature performance until late in ontogeny. Additionally, females were faster to shift than males were. We also found that chimpanzees were much more successful when using spatial versus perceptual cues, and highly perseverative when faced with probabilistic versus consistent outcomes. These results identify both core features of chimpanzee cognitive flexibility that are shared with humans, as well as constraints on chimpanzee cognitive flexibility that may represent evolutionary changes in human cognitive development.

Methods

Please see manuscript for all methodological details.

Usage Notes

Please see key tab for all files for specific definitions of variables. Cells are left blank on a given trial when the column is not applicable to that trial, as indicated for each study below.

Study 1:

  • R1ErrorPhase: This column distinguished perseverative and regressive errors in the first reversal phase. It is left blank for warm-up trials, learning trials and second reversal phase trials.

Study 2: 

  • RErrorPhase: This column distinguishes perseverative and regressive errors in the first reversal phase. It is left blank for warm-up trials and learning trials.

Study 3: 

  • RErrorPhase: This column distinguishes perseverative and regressive errors in the first reversal phase. It is left blank for learning trials.
  • Outcome: This column distinguishes reversal trials of chimpanzees who shifted within the 30-trial limit from those who did not successfully shift. It is left blank for learning trials. 
  • PriorCorrect, PriorFeedback, and SwitchSide: These codes referred to outcomes from the prior trial and were therefore blank in the first trial of a given session (where there was no prior trial). 

 

 

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: 1926653

National Science Foundation, Award: 1944881

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Award: FG-2019-12054

National Institutes of Health, Award: 5T32HD007109-40

National Institutes of Health, Award: R01AG049395