The Comparative Psychology of Ordinal Knowledge

Herbert Terrace

in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition

Second edition

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780195392661
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Comparative Psychology of Ordinal Knowledge

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



The study of serially organized behavior has been enhanced by a new paradigm for training sequences by new technology for presenting multiple images in varied positions and by new concepts for describing serially organized behavior. The new paradigm is the simultaneous chaining paradigm that presents all list items simultaneously, in a new configuration on each trial. Because there are no external cues to guide the execution of the required sequence, subjects must form a representation of the sequence and update it while moving from item to item. Experiments in which humans, chimpanzees, and monkeys were trained to learn sequences composed of arbitrary items showed that subjects acquired knowledge of the ordinal position of each item, and its relationship with other items from a list, without any requirement to do so. Symbolic distance and magnitude functions that were obtained from both monkeys and humans that learned lists composed of arbitrary and numerical stimuli provide strong evidence of an underlying ordinal position analyzer at both the behavioral and the neural level.

Keywords: serial learning; simultaneous chain; distance effect; magnitude effect; ordinal knowledge; transitive inference

Article.  18563 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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