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Monkeys, Too, Can Recollect What They've Seen, Study Suggests

It's one thing to recognize your childhood home when you see it in a photograph and quite another to accurately describe or draw a picture of it based on your recollection of how it looked. A new report published online on April 28 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, offers some of the first clear evidence that monkeys, like humans, have the capacity for both forms of memory. The researchers found that rhesus monkeys can flexibly recall extremely simple shapes from memory, as evidenced by their ability to reproduce those shapes on a computer touch screen. The findings suggest that human and monkey memory is more similar than scientists knew, the researchers say. Unlike recognition, recall shows an ability to remember things that are not present in the moment, the researchers explained. Recall is necessary for planning and imagining and can increase the flexibility of navigation, social behavior, and other cognitive skills. "The ability of monkeys to recall these shapes flexibly suggests that they might be able to recollect other types of information that would be useful to them in the wild," said Benjamin Basile of Emory University. "It's exciting to speculate that they may be able to recollect the appearance of monkeys they know, what favorite foods look like, or the path they would have to take to get to a water source." Of course, it's also possible that the monkeys use their recollection in very limited ways, he added. "Maybe it's often just easier to recognize the monkey, the food, or the landmark in front of you. What we do know is that they do seem to have the ability to recall information in the lab." Earlier studies had shown that recall and recognition tests given to humans require different types of memory. But it had been tricky to devise recall tests suitable for other...
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