Do primates see the solitaire illusion differently? a comparative assessment of humans (Homo sapiens) , chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) , rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) , and capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)

Agrillo, C.; Parrish, A.E.; Beran, M.J.

Journal of Comparative Psychology 128(4): 402-413


ISSN/ISBN: 1939-2087
PMID: 25133464
DOI: 10.1037/a0037499
Accession: 052680317

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An important question in comparative psychology is whether human and nonhuman animals share similar principles of perceptual organization. Despite much empirical research, no firm conclusion has been drawn. The Solitaire illusion is a numerosity illusion in humans that occurs when one misperceives the relative number of 2 types of items presented in intermingled sets. To date, no study has investigated whether nonhuman animals perceive the Solitaire illusion as humans do. Here, we compared the perception of the Solitaire illusion in human and nonhuman primates in 3 experiments. We first observed (Experiment 1) the spontaneous behavior of chimpanzees when presented with 2 arrays composed of a different number of preferred and nonpreferred food items. In probe trials, preferred items were presented in the Solitaire pattern in 2 different spatial arrangements (either clustered centrally or distributed on the perimeter). Chimpanzees did not show any misperception of quantity in the Solitaire pattern. Next, humans, chimpanzees, rhesus monkeys, and capuchin monkeys underwent the same testing of relative quantity judgments in a computerized task that also presented the Solitaire illusion (Experiments 2 and 3). Unlike humans, chimpanzees did not appear to perceive the illusion, in agreement with Experiment 1. The performance of rhesus monkeys and capuchin monkeys was also different from that of humans, but was slightly more indicative of a potential Solitaire illusion. On the whole, our results suggest a potential discontinuity in the visual mechanisms underlying the Solitaire illusion between human and nonhuman primates.