Like Humans, Apes Also Cannot ‘Unsee’

By modifying eye-tracking technology, researchers have shown that apes can remember and anticipate sequences from movies.

AsianScientist (Sep. 25, 2015) – Having once seen the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller Psycho, who can forget what happens next? As it turns out, great apes (in this case, chimpanzees and bonobos) also remember events in films and can anticipate what takes place in memorable scenes, according to a study published in Current Biology.

Researchers at Kyoto University’s Wildlife Research Center adapted eye-tracking technology for the apes, enabling the team to record how the apes were viewing various video clips.

“When shown a video for the second time, after a 24-hour delay, the apes clearly anticipated what was coming next,” explains first-author Assistant Professor Fumihiro Kano. “This demonstrates their ability to encode single-experience events into long-term memory.”

The team began by creating two series of short films, King Kong Attack and Revenge to King Kong, in which the apes are shown a familiar sort of environment where rather shockingly unfamiliar events take place.

For example in the first series, two doors are visible, but an attacking ‘King Kong’ (in reality, a researcher dressed in a Kong costume) only emerges from the right or left side. 24 hours later, when shown the film again, the apes’ attention focused on the side they had seen previously, even before Kong emerged.

Previous studies in this area have been based on prior long-term training of apes.

“What makes our result unique is that the apes encoded the information after only one viewing,” says Satoshi Hirata, a senior member of the team. “This ability should help them avoid impending danger, interact socially, and navigate complex environments.”

The article can be found at: Kano and Hirata (2015) Great Apes Make Anticipatory Looks Based on Long-Term Memory of Single Events.


Source: University of Kyoto.
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