Perceptual category learning of photographic and painterly stimuli in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) and humans

Drew Altschul, Greg Jensen, Herbert Terrace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Humans are highly adept at categorizing visual stimuli, but studies of human categorization are typically validated by verbal reports. This makes it difficult to perform comparative studies of categorization using non-human animals. Interpretation of comparative studies is further complicated by the possibility that animal performance may merely reflect reinforcement learning, whereby discrete features act as discriminative cues for categorization. To assess and compare how humans and monkeys classified visual stimuli, we trained 7 rhesus macaques and 41 human volunteers to respond, in a specific order, to four simultaneously presented stimuli at a time, each belonging to a different perceptual category. These exemplars were drawn at random from large banks of images, such that the stimuli presented changed on every trial. Subjects nevertheless identified and ordered these changing stimuli correctly. Three monkeys learned to order naturalistic photographs; four others, close-up sections of paintings with distinctive styles. Humans learned to order both types of stimuli. All subjects classified stimuli at levels substantially greater than that predicted by chance or by feature-driven learning alone, even when stimuli changed on every trial. However, humans more closely resembled monkeys when classifying the more abstract painting stimuli than the photographic stimuli. This points to a common classification strategy in both species, one that humans can rely on in the absence of linguistic labels for categories.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0185576
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume12
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2017

Keywords

  • Journal Article

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