The evolution of primate short-term memory

ManyPrimates, Ivo Jacobs, Tomas Persson, Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc, Pauline Zablocki-Thomas

Research output: Working paper/PreprintPreprint (in preprint archive)


Short-term memory is implicated in a range of cognitive abilities and is critical for understanding primate cognitive evolution. To investigate the effects of phylogeny, ecology and sociality on short-term memory ability, we tested 421 non-human primates across 41 species in a pre-registered, experimental delayed-response task. Our results confirm previous findings that longer delays decrease memory performance across species and taxa. Our analyses demonstrate a considerable contribution of phylogeny over ecological and social factors on the distribution of short-term memory performance in primates; closely related species had more similar short-term memory abilities. However, interdependencies between phylogeny and socioecology of a given species present an obstacle to disentangling the effects of each of these factors on the evolution of short-term memory capacity. The dataset corresponding to the study is freely accessible and constitutes an important resource for studying the evolution of primate cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages63
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Behavioral Sciences Biology

Free keywords

  • cognitive evolution
  • phylogenetic analysis
  • primate cognition
  • short-term memory


Dive into the research topics of 'The evolution of primate short-term memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this