The evolution of primate short-term memory

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • ManyPrimates
  • Géraud Aguenouno
  • Matthias Allritz
  • Drew M. Altschul
  • Sébastien Ballesta
  • Alice Beaud
  • Manuel Bohn
  • Sally Bornbusch
  • Angela Brandão
  • James Brooks
  • Thomas Bugnyar
  • Léa Bustamante
  • Josep Call
  • Charlotte Canteloup
  • Kai Caspar
  • Sarah Detroy
  • Shona J. Duguid
  • Timothy M. Eppley
  • Claudia Fichtel
  • Julia Fischer
  • Chi Gong
  • James A. Grang
  • Nicholas M. Grebe
  • Daniel Hanus
  • Daniel B.M. Haun
  • Lou M. Haux
  • Yseult Héjja - Brichard
  • Annabella Helman
  • Istvan Hernadi
  • R. Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar
  • Esther Herrmann
  • Lydia M. Hopper
  • Lauren H. Howard
  • Lei Huang
  • Sarah M. Huskisson
  • Ivo Jacobs
  • Zhiyong Jin
  • Marine Joly
  • Fumihiro Kano
  • Stefanie Keupp
  • Evelin Kiefer
  • Balázs Knakker
  • Katalin Kóczán
  • Larissa Kraus
  • Sze Chai Kwok
  • Marie Lefrançois
  • Laura Lewis
  • Siyi Liu
  • Miquel Llorente
  • Elizabeth Lonsdorf
  • Louise Loyant
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
JournalAnimal Behavior and Cognition
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)428-516
Number of pages89
Publication statusPublished - 05.12.2021
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

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