Date of Thesis



Meta-cognition, or "thinking about thinking," has been studied extensively in humans, but very little is known about the process in animals. Although great apes and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) have demonstrated multiple apparently meta-cognitive abilities, other species have either been largely ignored or failed to convincingly display meta-cognitive traits. Recent work by Marsh, however, raised the possibility that some species may possess rudimentary or partial forms of meta-cognition. This thesis sought to further investigate this possibility by running multiple comparative experiments. The goal of the first study was to examine whether lion-tailed macaques, a species that may have a rudimentary form of meta-cognition, are able to use an uncertainty response adaptively, and if so, whether they could use the response flexibly when the stimuli for which the subjects should be uncertain changed. The macaques' acquisition of the initial discrimination task is ongoing, and as such there were not yet data to support a conclusion either way. In the second study, tufted capuchins were required to locate a food reward hidden beneath inverted cups that sat on a Plexiglas tray. In some conditions the capuchins were shown where the food was hidden, in others they could infer its location, and in yet others they were not given information about the location of the food. On all trials, however, capuchins could optionally seek additional information by looking up through the Plexiglas into the cups. In general, capuchins did this less often when they were shown the food reward, but not when they could infer the reward's location. These data suggest capuchins only meta-cognitively control their information seeking in some conditions, and thus, add support to the potential for a rudimentary form of meta-cognition. In convergence with other studies, these results may represent early models for rudimentary meta-cognition, although viable alternative explanations still remain.


meta-cognition, animal behavior, Macaca silenus, Cebus apella

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Heidi Marsh

Second Advisor

Peter Judge