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Study: Adult Monkeys Recognise Photographs of Their Friends




March 19, 2011 /Photography News/ According to a new study published in the journal Animal Cognition this week, untrained Barbary macaques are able to recognise photos of their friends. 

During the experiment, experts in primates have shown pictures of other animal species. Adult macasques were able recognise photographs of group members, and spent more time scrutinising the images trying to better understand ones that were unfamiliar to them.


Juvenile monkeys were fascinated but puzzled by the photographs. They often tried to greet or touch the animal in the image.

These observations have led scientists to conclude that many monkeys are able to distinguish each other's photos, and even those who do not succeed can learn with age, and that in adult primates at least, the monkeys are able to memorise the faces of a large number of individuals. 

The results provide evidence that experience plays a key role in the development of individual recognition and understanding.

Currently, studies on recognition in primates often require the subjects to receive extended training, repeatedly exposed them to pictures and rewarding them for correctly distinguishing between stimuli. By using this method, the monkeys sometimes become accustomed to the pictures prior to the actual experiment, thereby skewing the results.

With evidence that the macaques are able to spontaneously recognise photographs, researchers believe that scientists will no longer be restricted to working in the lab and training the monkeys when studying the cognitive behaviour of these remarkable animals.

Photo: Jean-François Chénier


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