Five chimpanzees with training in counting and numerical skills selected between 2 arrays of different amounts of candy or 2 Arabic numerals. A reversed reinforcement contingency was in effect, in which the selected array was removed and the subject received the nonselected candies (or the number of candies represented by the nonselected Arabic numeral). Animals were unable to maximize reward by selecting the smaller array when candies were used as array elements. When Arabic numerals were substituted for the candy arrays, all animals showed an immediate shift to a more optimal response strategy of selecting the smaller numeral, thereby receiving the larger reward. Results suggest that a response disposition to the high-incentive candy stimuli introduced a powerful interference effect on performance, which was effectively overridden by the use of symbolic representations.
Boysen, S. T., Berntson, G. G., Hannan, M. B., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1996). Quantity-based interference and symbolic representations in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 22(1), 76.