Distinctiveness enhances long-term event memory in non-human primates, irrespective of reinforcement

Amy Lewis, Josep Call, Dorthe Berntsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Non-human primates are capable of recalling events that occurred as long as three years ago, and are able to distinguish between similar events; akin to human memory. In humans, distinctiveness enhances memory for events, however, it is unknown whether the same occurs in non-human primates. As such, we tested three great ape species on their ability to remember an event that varied in distinctiveness. Across three experiments, apes witnessed a baiting event in which one of three identical containers was baited with food. After a delay of two weeks, we tested their memory for the location of the baited container. Apes failed to recall the baited container when the event was undistinctive (Experiment 1), but were successful when it was distinctive (Experiment 2), although performance was equally good in a less-distinctive condition. A third experiment (Experiment 3) confirmed that distinctiveness, independent of reinforcement, was a consistent predictor of performance. These findings suggest that distinctiveness may enhance memory for events in non-human primates in the same way as in humans, and provides further evidence of basic similarities between the ways apes and humans remember past events.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22665
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number8
Early online date13 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Long-term memory
  • Primates
  • Binding
  • Distinctiveness
  • Event memory


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