Macaques preferentially attend to intermediately surprising information

Shengyi Wu, Tommy Blanchard, Emily Meschke, Richard N. Aslin, Benjamin Y. Hayden, Celeste Kidd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Normative learning theories dictate that we should preferentially attend to informative sources, but only up to the point that our limited learning systems can process their content. Humans, including infants, show this predicted strategic deployment of attention. Here, we demonstrate that rhesus monkeys, much like humans, attend to events of moderate surprisingness over both more and less surprising events. They do this in the absence of any specific goal or contingent reward, indicating that the behavioural pattern is spontaneous. We suggest this U-shaped attentional preference represents an evolutionarily preserved strategy for guiding intelligent organisms toward material that is maximally useful for learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220144
JournalBiology letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 6 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by Jacobs Foundation, National Science Foundation (grant no. 2000759) and John Templeton Foundation (grant no. 61475). Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors.


  • attention
  • eye tracking
  • rhesus macaque
  • statistical learning

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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