I think I’m not even going to explain why this is interesting to me beyond the obvious title and the fact that the senior author, Liz Brannon is a childhood friend and now distinguished researcher and Professor at Duke.
Implicit learning involves picking up information from the environment without explicit instruction or conscious awareness of the learning process. In nonhuman animals, conscious awareness is impossible to assess, so we define implicit learning as occurring when animals acquire information beyond what is required for successful task performance. While implicit learning has been documented in some nonhuman species, it has not been explored in prosimian primates. Here we ask whether ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) learn sequential information implicitly. We tested lemurs in a modified version of the serial reaction time task on a touch screen computer. Lemurs were required to respond to any picture within a 2 × 2 grid of pictures immediately after its surrounding border flickered. Over 20 training sessions, both the locations and the identities of the images remained constant and response times gradually decreased. Subsequently, the locations and/or the identities of the images were disrupted. Response times indicated that the lemurs had learned the physical location sequence required in original training but did not learn the identity of the images. Our results reveal that ring-tailed lemurs can implicitly learn spatial sequences, and raise questions about which scenarios and evolutionary pressures give rise to perceptual versus motor-implicit sequence learning.
I do wonder about their definition of “implicit” in lemurs, though…