Wisconsin Card Sorting Test

Rhesus playing Wisconsin Card Sorting Test game (Photo from video by Ricki Colman).

Learn about the patented, trademarked gold standard Wisconsin Card Sorting Test through our WCST Fact Sheet.

This test was invented at UW–Madison and is used worldwide for both human and animal cognitive testing, including with our macaques right here at the Primate Center.

You can try the WCST yourself with an app either on your Android or iPhone.

The Android app is called “Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (Variant)” and is very similar to versions we have used to test brain function in our monkeys. Look for the app with the four green stars on a light purple square. The iPhone version is called “WCST Lite” and is a turquoise background with the words “Lite Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.” The iPhone version, however, gives away the answers in the “Sort by” header at the top, so you might want to cover the header with your thumb while you play the game to try and figure out the game just as the monkeys would do: We can’t tell them what to do so we don’t want to tell you either!

Questions for discussion:

  1. Was the game difficult or easy?
  2. Are you surprised that rhesus macaques can figure out the game?
  3. How do think discovering that rhesus monkeys have the ability to play the WCST changed both research and animal care for these monkeys in captivity?
  4. The monkeys don’t use smart phones. If they did, they would likely throw them around, chew on them and destroy them. So the monkeys are instead placed in a special test cage with the game on a large screen. Every time they touch the correct object, a treat pellet drops into a tray below, just like a vending machine. Do you think the monkeys would play the game if they didn’t get a food reward? Why or why not?
  5. Look up the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test on the web and see what else you can learn about how it is used in humans and animals.