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Sequential list-learning by an adolescent lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) using an infrared touchframe apparatus

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The ability to appropriately sequence a list of discrete items is an important facet in performing routine cognitive tasks and may play a significant role in the acquisition of early communication skills. Though the serial learning abilities of some species, such as chimpanzees and rhesus macaques are well documented, there is virtually no information on the extent of these skills with gorillas. In this study, a young female western lowland gorilla has demonstrated the ability to learn a list of seven Arabic numerals by selecting them on a monitor behind an infrared touchframe. As list length increased (from three to seven), Rollie required fewer trials to reach the criterion, suggesting an acquisition of skills associated with serial learning. Rollie was most likely to correctly select the first item in the sequence and least likely to select the penultimate item in the sequence. Her performance suggests serial learning abilities in the range of other non-verbal species and provides preliminary evidence that supports the assertion that gorillas can succeed at this form of serial learning task.
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Keywords: cognition; gorilla; list learning; sequential learning; serial learning

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 23, 2009

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