Sequential learning in non-human primates

Christopher M. Conway, Morten H. Christiansen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Sequential learning plays a role in a variety of common tasks, such as human language processing, animal communication, and the learning of action sequences. In this article, we investigate sequential learning in non-human primates from a comparative perspective, focusing on three areas: the learning of arbitrary, fixed sequences; statistical learning; and the learning of hierarchical structure. Although primates exhibit many similarities to humans in their performance on sequence learning tasks, there are also important differences. Crucially, non-human primates appear to be limited in their ability to learn and represent the hierarchical structure of sequences. We consider the evolutionary implications of these differences and suggest that limitations in sequential learning may help explain why non-human primates lack human-like language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-546
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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