Nicolas Claidière
Laboratoire de psychologie cognitive
Aix-Marseille University, CNRS
13331 Marseille, France

Other better vs. self better in baboons

Dumas, F., Fagot, J., Davranche, K., & Claidière, N. (2017). Other better versus self better in baboons: an evolutionary approach of social comparison. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1855). doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.0248

Abstract: Comparing oneself with others is an important characteristic of human social life, but the link between human and non-human forms of social comparison remains largely unknown. The present study used a computerized task presented in a social context to explore psychological mechanisms supporting social comparison in baboons and compare major findings with those usually observed in humans. We found that the effects of social comparison on subject’s performance were guided both by similarity (same vs different sex) and task complexity. Comparing oneself with a better off other (upward comparison) increased performance when the other was similar rather than dissimilar, and a reverse effect was obtained when the self was better (downward comparison). Furthermore, when the other was similar, upward comparison led to a better performance than downward comparison. Interestingly, the beneficial effect of upward comparison on baboons’ performance was only observed during simple task. Our results support the hypothesis of shared social comparison mechanisms in human and nonhuman primates.

Figure 2. (a) Estimated differences in reaction times from the averaged model for the three explanatory variables, task complexity (simple versus complex), comparison (downward/self better versus upward/other better) and similarity (same sex versus different sex). Error bars represent standard errors. Horizontal bars indicate a significant difference between the two conditions. (b) For comparison purposes, this graph illustrates the main results of Tesser et al.’s study on social comparison effects in humans [8].

Emotion-Cognition Interaction in Nonhuman Primates

Blanchette, I., Marzouki, Y., Claidière, N., Gullstrand, J., & Fagot, J. (2016). Emotion-Cognition Interaction in Nonhuman Primates. Psychological Science, 28(1), 3-11.

Abstract: It is well established that emotion and cognition interact in humans, but such an interaction has not been extensively studied in nonhuman primates. We investigated whether emotional value can affect nonhuman primates’ processing of stimuli that are only mentally represented, not visually available. In a short-term memory task, baboons memorized the location of two target squares of the same color, which were presented with a distractor of a different color. Through prior long-term conditioning, one of the two colors had acquired a negative valence. Subjects were slower and less accurate on the memory task when the targets were negative than when they were neutral. In contrast, subjects were faster and more accurate when the distractors were negative than when they were neutral. Some of these effects were modulated by individual differences in emotional disposition. Overall, the results reveal a pattern of cognitive avoidance of negative stimuli, and show that emotional value alters cognitive processing in baboons even when the stimuli are not physically present. This suggests that emotional influences on cognition are deeply rooted in evolutionary continuity.