A Serial Reaction Time (SRT) task with symmetrical joystick responding for nonhuman primates

Lisa A. Heimbauer, Christopher M. Conway, Morten H. Christiansen, Michael J. Beran, Michael J. Owren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The serial reaction time (SRT) task is a simple procedure in which participants produce differentiated responses to each of a series of stimuli presented at varying locations. Learning about stimulus order is revealed through decreased latencies for structured versus randomized sequences. Although widely used with humans and well suited to nonhumans, this paradigm is little used in comparative research. In the present article, we describe an SRT procedure that uses colored circles as stimuli, a circular layout of locations, and symmetrical joystick deflections as responses. In two experiments, we showed that four rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) learned to track sequences up to eight items long, with three animals showing faster responding to repeating sequences than to randomized versions. After extended training, these participants also showed evidence of faster responding at all positions within repeating sequences. This method minimizes response effort, equates effort and travel distance across stimulus locations, and is applicable to any joystick-capable species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-741
Number of pages9
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Sequence learning
  • Serial reaction time task
  • Symmetrical joystick responding
  • Visual stimuli

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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