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This content will become publicly available on December 1, 2023

Title: Endogenous cortisol correlates with performance under pressure on a working memory task in capuchin monkeys
Abstract Humans often experience striking performance deficits when their outcomes are determined by their own performance, colloquially referred to as “choking under pressure.” Physiological stress responses that have been linked to both choking and thriving are well-conserved in primates, but it is unknown whether other primates experience similar effects of pressure. Understanding whether this occurs and, if so, its physiological correlates, will help clarify the evolution and proximate causes of choking in humans. To address this, we trained capuchin monkeys on a computer game that had clearly denoted high- and low-pressure trials, then tested them on trials with the same signals of high pressure, but no difference in task difficulty. Monkeys significantly varied in whether they performed worse or better on high-pressure testing trials and performance improved as monkeys gained experience with performing under pressure. Baseline levels of cortisol were significantly negatively related to performance on high-pressure trials as compared to low-pressure trials. Taken together, this indicates that less experience with pressure may interact with long-term stress to produce choking behavior in early sessions of a task. Our results suggest that performance deficits (or improvements) under pressure are not solely due to human specific factors but are rooted in evolutionarily conserved biological factors.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1919305 1658867
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Scientific Reports
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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