Bliss-Moreau, E., Baxter, M. G. 2019. Interest in non-social novel stimuli as a function of age in rhesus monkeys. Royal Society Open Science 6(9), 182237.

Human cognitive and affective life changes with healthy ageing; cognitive capacity declines while emotional life becomes more positive and social relationships are prioritized. This may reflect an awareness of limited lifetime unique to humans, leading to a greater interest in maintaining social relationships at the expense of the non-social world in the face of limited cognitive and physical resources. Alternately, fundamental biological processes common to other primate species may direct preferential interest in social stimuli with increasing age. Inspired by a recent study that described a sustained interest in social stimuli but diminished interest in non-social stimuli in aged Barbary macaques, we carried out a conceptual replication to test whether old rhesus monkeys lost interest in non-social stimuli. Male and female macaques (Macaca mulatta; N = 243) 4–30 years old were tested with a food puzzle outfitted with an activity monitor to evaluate their propensity to manipulate the puzzle in order to free a food reward. We found no indication that aged monkeys were less interested in the puzzle than young monkeys, nor were they less able to solve it.

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