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Visual acuity is a defining feature of the primates. Humans can process visual stimuli at extremely rapid presentation durations, as short as 14 ms. Evidence suggests that other primates, including chimpanzees and rhesus macaques, can process visual information at similarly rapid rates. What is lacking is information on the abilities of New World monkeys, which is necessary to determine whether rapid processing is present across the primates or is specific to Old World primates. We tested capuchin (Cebus apella) and rhesus (Macaca mulatta) monkeys on a computerized matching-to-sample paradigm to determine the shortest presentation duration at which stimuli could be correctly identified. In Study 1, using clip art images, both species achieved presentation durations as short as 25 ms while maintaining high accuracy rates. In Study 2, we used logographic Asian language characters to see if stimuli that were more similar in appearance would reveal species differences. Neither species was as accurate, or achieved as short of presentation durations, as with clip-art images. In particular, capuchins were initially less accurate than rhesus in Study 2, but with experience, achieved similar accuracy rates and presentation durations. These data indicate that rapid visual processing abilities are widespread in the primate lineage, and that the form of the stimuli presented can have an effect on processing across species.


This article was originally published in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology. Copyright © 2013 by the International Society for Comparative Psychology.

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