A psychometrically robust screening tool to rapidly identify socially impaired monkeys in the general population

Catherine F. Talbot, Joseph P. Garner, Alyssa C. Maness, Brenda McCowan, John P. Capitanio, Karen J. Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Naturally, low-social rhesus macaques exhibit social impairments with direct relevance to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To more efficiently identify low-social individuals in a large colony, we exploited, refined, and psychometrically assessed the macaque Social Responsiveness Scale (mSRS), an instrument previously derived from the human ASD screening tool. We performed quantitative social behavior assessments and mSRS ratings on a total of N = 349 rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) housed in large, outdoor corrals. In one cohort (N = 116), we conducted inter-rater and test-retest reliabilities, and in a second cohort (N = 233), we evaluated the convergent construct and predictive validity of the mSRS-Revised (mSRS-R). Only 17 of the original 36 items demonstrated inter-rater and test–retest reliability, resulting in the 17-item mSRS-R. The mSRS-R showed strong validity: mSRS-R scores robustly predicted monkeys' social behavior frequencies in home corrals. Monkeys that scored 1.5 standard deviations from the mean on nonsocial behavior likewise exhibited significantly more autistic-like traits, and mSRS-R scores predicted individuals' social classification (low-social vs. high-social) with 96% accuracy (likelihood ratio chi-square = 25.07; P < 0.0001). These findings indicate that the mSRS-R is a reliable, valid, and sensitive measure of social functioning, and like the human SRS, can be used as a high-throughput screening tool to identify socially impaired individuals in the general population. Lay Summary: Variation in autistic traits can be measured in humans using the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). Here, we revised this scale for rhesus macaques (i.e., the mSRS-R), and showed that macaques exhibit individual differences in mSRS-R scores, and at the behavioral extremes, low-social vs. high-social monkeys exhibit more autistic-like traits. These results suggest that the mSRS-R can be used as a screening tool to rapidly and accurately identify low-social monkeys in the general population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAutism Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • animal model
  • autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • psychometrics
  • rhesus macaque
  • social behavior
  • social deficits
  • Social Responsiveness Scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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