In the Comparative Cognition and Behavior at Bucknell lab (www.bucknell.edu/c2b2) we study how primates think, learn, and remember information. We are currently focusing on exploring how capuchin monkeys learn, what they know about the other animals in their social group, and how they solve logic based problems.
We use a combination of manual (pointing at different items to indicate choices) and touch screen computer methods to answer our research questions. These methods give us a good understanding of animals’ choice behavior, but fail to inform our understanding of how they make those choices.
In psychology, one of the most useful methods for studying what a human or animal is thinking is to track where they are looking. This is commonly used in marketing research, human-computer interaction studies, and to study cognitive processes in animals. For example, if we can track an animal’s eyes while it is scanning the screen, we can determine if they look at all options in a given test, or stop looking after they find the correct answer. These different looking patterns have very different implications for the cognitive processes underlying those choices- with one suggesting a recognition based strategy (which one looks the most right), while the other suggests a recall based strategy (I am searching for answer X because I know it is correct).
There are many eye tracking systems out there that work great for non-human primates, but most of them require that the animal’s head is fixed using a head post or primate chair. While eye tracking systems designed for humans can handle a free moving head that goes in and out of the frame, the parts of the face and eye that they use to recalibrate are often either not present or difficult to identify in monkeys. The few systems out there that work alright for free moving primates cost many tens of thousands of dollars, and are not very reliable.
In our lab we only work with free moving monkeys, so we currently have no viable options for tracking their looking behavior when interacting with a computer screen.
The goals of this project are to create an eye tracking system that can track looking behavior to a stationary computer screen in free moving capuchin monkeys.
1. Track the looking behavior of capuchin monkeys interacting with a computer (i.e. we do not need a system that tracks their eye everywhere, only when they are participating in our cognitive tasks)
2. Re-aquire eyes when the animal looks away or leaves the video frame.
3. Be usable with a low cost camera. Many eye tracking systems require purchases of very expensive cameras that are not feasible for us.
This project would open the door to an entire area of research questions that we currently do not have the capability to ask in our capuchin monkeys. Additionally, more and more primate labs are moving towards testing free moving animals and are running into the challenges outlined here when trying to track monkey looking behavior. This project would be extremely useful not only to our lab, but also to other labs in the field.
1. All equipment must be mounted outside of the monkey area so animals cannot contact equipment.
2. Must be able to be safely placed in the monkey area (animals cannot reach wires, camera, etc).
2. Computers for monkeys to interact with (we will provide)
3. Cage modifications or plexi glass panels for animals to look through (if this is needed- we will provide)
Point of Contact
Prof. Reggie Gazes
Animal Behavior / Psychology