The core functional organization of the primate brain is remarkably conserved across the order, but behavioral differences evident between species likely reflect derived modifications in the underlying neural processes. Here, we performed the first study to directly compare visual recognition memory in two primate species—rhesus macaques and marmoset monkeys—on the same visual preferential looking task as a first step toward identifying similarities and differences in this cognitive process across the primate phylogeny. Preferences in looking behavior on the task were broadly similar between the species, with greater looking times for novel images compared with repeated images as well as a similarly strong preference for faces compared with other categories. Unexpectedly, we found large behavioral differences among the two species in looking behavior independent of image familiarity. Marmosets exhibited longer looking times, with greater variability compared with macaques, regardless of image content or familiarity. Perhaps most strikingly, marmosets shifted their gaze across the images more quickly, suggesting a different behavioral strategy when viewing images. Although such differences limit the comparison of recognition memory across these closely related species, they point to interesting differences in the mechanisms underlying active vision that have significant implications for future neurobiological investigations with these two nonhuman primate species. Elucidating whether these patterns are reflective of species or broader phylogenetic differences (e.g., between New World and Old World monkeys) necessitates a broader sample of primate taxa from across the Order.

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