What is it about?

Young children have difficulty shifting to a new rule to sort cards once one rule has been established, but older children can manage to apply two different rules when needed. Adult tamarins were tested to see if they could shift rules flexibly and they can. This suggests that their thinking about rules is similar to humans. A second study revealed the basis of sorting in 5-year-olds and in tamarins and they varied in terms of risk taking or risk aversion with novel cards. Tolerance to risk in novel circumstances may relate to how a species evolved and survives.

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Why is it important?

Our findings show that a nonhuman primate not closely related to us has the cognitive flexibility to apply different rules to a problem. It also shows a greater willingness to take risks in the game by the nonhuman primates than humans. This is important because it reveals how our thinking changes within our species developmental and how it compares and contrasts with other differently evolved primates.


We are currently looking at how tamarins think as they age to measure whether there is cognitive decline in this task and other tasks. As monkeys age they can show symptoms similar to dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. We are using cognitive tasks both to measure how they are doing and to help them through the aging process.

Julie J Neiworth
Carleton College

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A modified version of the dimensional change card sort task tests cognitive flexibility in children (Homo sapiens) and cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus)., Journal of Comparative Psychology, March 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/com0000312.
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