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Correction published on 29 November 2016, see Behav. Sci. 2016, 6(4), 26.

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle

Can Rhesus Monkeys Learn Executive Attention?

Language Research Center, Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30302-5010, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jennifer Vonk
Behav. Sci. 2016, 6(2), 11;
Received: 31 March 2016 / Revised: 31 May 2016 / Accepted: 3 June 2016 / Published: 13 June 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in Animal Cognition)
PDF [2225 KB, uploaded 1 December 2016]


A growing body of data indicates that, compared to humans, rhesus monkeys perform poorly on tasks that assess executive attention, or voluntary control over selection for processing, particularly under circumstances in which attention is attracted elsewhere by competing stimulus control. In the human-cognition literature, there are hotly active debates about whether various competencies such as executive attention, working memory capacity, and fluid intelligence can be improved through training. In the current study, rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) completed an attention-training intervention including several inhibitory-control tasks (a Simon task, numerical Stroop task, global/local interference task, and a continuous performance task) to determine whether generalized improvements would be observed on a version of the Attention Network Test (ANT) of controlled attention, which was administered before and after the training intervention. Although the animals demonstrated inhibition of prepotent responses and improved in executive attention with practice, this improvement did not generalize to the ANT at levels consistently better than were observed for control animals. Although these findings fail to encourage the possibility that species differences in cognitive competencies can be ameliorated through training, they do advance our understanding of the competition between stimulus-control and cognitive-control in performance by nonhuman and human primates. View Full-Text
Keywords: attention training; rhesus monkeys; executive attention; Stroop task attention training; rhesus monkeys; executive attention; Stroop task

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Bramlett-Parker, J.; Washburn, D.A. Can Rhesus Monkeys Learn Executive Attention? Behav. Sci. 2016, 6, 11.

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