NEIWORTH PRIMATE COGNITION LAB
Wizard and Roosevelt are tested after 10 trials of habituation in a task involving patterns of phonemes (consonant-vowels) in the grammatical learning task.
This is an example of the sequences we played to monkeys that varied but maintained a certain grammatical order (like ABB, in this instance). The monkeys were given cheerios as a treat and if they thought the sequence or sounds were the same as they had heard before, they would ignore them and gather around their treat bowl. In this example, the last of 10 trials of the same kind of pattern was presented. Next, in Test 1, the same sequence or pattern is played, only the phonemes used had never been heard before. You can see some looking toward the speaker (back left corner) that shows they notice the novelty of the phonemes. Still they return to eating fairly quickly. In Test 2, a different sequence/pattern (AAB) is played in novel phonemes. Now both monkeys show more intense interest toward the left corner of their cage and only one finally returns to eating.
What does this demonstrate? It is a test of whether monkeys can habituate to grammar, or patterns of speech. This was a study originally conducted by Marc Hauser and others which was drawn into scrutiny due to claims of improper science. I decided to test it again. This and several other topics drew our attention toward auditory stimuli and how monkeys perceive sounds, categorize sounds, and understand meaning in their presentation. Neiworth studied melodies, sound effects, and pitch sequences as a postdoc, and later we have considered regular patterns of sounds and even sounds to indicate presence or absence of treats as cues for information.