Monkeys are curious about counterfactual outcomes

Maya Zhe Wang, Ben Y Hayden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Many non-human animals show exploratory behaviors. It remains unclear whether any possess human-like curiosity. We previously proposed three criteria for applying the term curiosity to animal behavior: (1) the subject is willing to sacrifice reward to obtain information, (2) the information provides no immediate instrumental or strategic benefit, and (3) the amount the subject is willing to pay depends systematically on the amount of information available. In previous work on information-seeking in animals, information generally predicts upcoming rewards, and animals’ decisions may therefore be a byproduct of reinforcement processes. Here we get around this potential confound by taking advantage of macaques’ ability to reason counterfactually (that is, about outcomes that could have occurred had the subject chosen differently). Specifically, macaques sacrificed fluid reward to obtain information about counterfactual outcomes. Moreover, their willingness to pay scaled with the information (Shannon entropy) offered by the counterfactual option. These results demonstrate the existence of human-like curiosity in non-human primates according to our criteria, which circumvent several confounds associated with less stringent criteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCognition
Volume189
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

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Exploratory Behavior
Haplorhini
Reward
Macaca
animal
reward
Animal Behavior
Aptitude
Entropy
Primates
willingness to pay
entropy
available information
reinforcement
Monkey
ability
Curiosity

Keywords

  • Counterfactual
  • Curiosity
  • Entropy
  • Fictive
  • Gambling
  • Hypothetical
  • Risk

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

Cite this

Monkeys are curious about counterfactual outcomes. / Wang, Maya Zhe; Hayden, Ben Y.

In: Cognition, Vol. 189, 01.08.2019, p. 1-10.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Wang, Maya Zhe ; Hayden, Ben Y. / Monkeys are curious about counterfactual outcomes. In: Cognition. 2019 ; Vol. 189. pp. 1-10.
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