DEC Colloquium

Baboons process second-order relations: a case of complex conceptual (analogical) reasoning without language

Joël Fagot
Practical information
25 November 2014



Analogical reasoning—the ability to perceive and use relational similarity between two situations or events—is often conceived as fundamental aspect of human cognition. Studies on humans and language -trained chimpanzees suggest that this ability is at least boosted, if not strictly permitted, by a linguistic encoding of the task. I will present several experiments testing guinea baboons on the Relational Matching Task (RMTS), which has the same conceptual structure as standard analogy problems. This task is of the form: Given AA, choose XX over YZ; and given AB, choose YZ over XX. I will show that the baboons can learn this task after extensive training, and will demonstrate that their post-training performance is really based on the processing relations between relations. I will discuss the potential contribution of the (non symbolic) training of baboons to this achievement, in comparison to the symbolic-linguistic experience of children.