Similarity and structured representation in human and nonhuman apes

Carl Hodgetts, James Close, Ulrike Hahn

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How we judge the similarity between objects in the world is connected ultimately to how we represent those objects. It has been argued extensively that object representations in humans are ‘structured’ in nature, meaning that both individual features and the relations between them can influence similarity. In contrast, popular models within comparative psychology assume that nonhuman species appreciate only surface-level, featural similarities. By applying psychological models of structural and featural similarity (from conjunctive feature models to Tversky’s contrast model) to visual similarity judgements from adult humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas, we demonstrate a cross-species sensitivity to complex structural information, particularly for stimuli that combine colour and shape. These results shed new light on the representational complexity of nonhuman apes, and the fundamental limits of featural coding in explaining object representation and similarity, which emerge strikingly across both human and nonhuman species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105419
Early online date25 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

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