Can chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) discriminate appearance from reality?

Carla Krachun*, Josep Call, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A milestone in human development is coming to recognize that how something looks is not necessarily how it is. We tested appearance-reality understanding in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) with a task requiring them to choose between a small grape and a big grape. The apparent relative size of the grapes was reversed using magnifying and minimizing lenses so that the truly bigger grape appeared to be the smaller one. Our Lens test involved a basic component adapted from standard procedures for children, as well as several components designed to rule out alternative explanations. There were large individual differences in performance, with some chimpanzees' responses suggesting they appreciated the appearance-reality distinction. In contrast, all chimpanzees failed a Reverse Contingency control test, indicating that those who passed the Lens test did not do so by learning a simple reverse contingency rule. Four-year-old children given an adapted version of the Lens test failed it while 4.5-year-olds passed. Our study constitutes the first direct investigation of appearance-reality understanding in chimpanzees and the first cross-species comparison of this capacity. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-450
Number of pages16
JournalCognition
Volume112
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009

Keywords

  • Appearance-reality
  • Metacognition
  • Theory of mind
  • Chimpanzees
  • Comparative cognition
  • ORANGUTANS PONGO-PYGMAEUS
  • GORILLA-GORILLA PERFORM
  • FALSE BELIEF TASK
  • GREAT APES
  • PERCEPTUAL STRATEGIES
  • LIQUID CONSERVATION
  • CONCEPTUAL DEFICIT
  • CONTINGENCY TASK
  • DISTINCTION
  • QUANTITY

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