Home   Publication   Acquisition and memory of sequence order in young and adult chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).

Sana Inoue, Tetsuro Matsuzawa

Acquisition and memory of sequence order in young and adult chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).

Animal Cognition, 12, S59–S69., doi: 10.1007/s10071-009-0274-4


There is no research about age difference in the process of sequential learning in non-human primates. Is there any difference between young and adults in sequential learning process? Six chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), 3 young and 3 adults, learned the Arabic numeral sequence 1 to 9 by touching the numerals on a touch-screen monitor in ascending order. Initially, the sequence always started with the numeral 1, i.e. ‘start-fixed task’. Training began with the sequence 1–2, 1–2–3, and continued sequentially up to 1–2–3–4–5–6–7–8–9. Later, the subjects were introduced to sequences that started with a random numeral, but always ended with 9, i.e. ‘end-fixed task’. Performance in the end-fixed task was worse relative to the familiar start-fixed task. After training with various sequences of adjacent numerals, the subjects were given a transfer test for the non-adjacent numerals. The results suggested that all chimpanzees indeed mastered sequential ordering, and although there was no fundamental difference in the acquisition process between the two age groups, there was a significant age difference in memory capacity. Based on their knowledge of sequential ordering, the subjects were then asked to perform a masking task in which once a subject touched the lowest numeral, the other numeral(s) turned to white squares. Performance of the masking task by young chimpanzees was better than that of adults in accuracy and degree of difficulty (number of numerals). Taken together, these data clearly demonstrate a similarity among subjects in the way chimpanzees acquire knowledge of sequential order regardless of age differences in sequential learning. Moreover, they reveal that once knowledge of sequential order is established, it can be a good index used to evaluate memory capacity in young and adult chimpanzees.


Sequential learning, Acquisition, Memory, Developmental difference, Chimpanzee