Chimpanzees May Recognize Motives and Goals, But May Not Reckon On Them

Josep Call*, Keith Jensen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Citations (Scopus)


Psychological states play a fundamental role in mediating human social interactions. We interpret identical actions and outcomes in radically different ways depending on the motives and intentions underlying them. Moreover, we take reckoning of ourselves stacked up against others, and ideally make moral decisions with others in mind. Recently, evidence has been accumulating suggesting that our closest relatives are also sensitive to the motives of others and can distinguish intentional from accidental actions. These results suggest that chimpanzees interpret the actions of others from a psychological perspective, not just a behavioural perspective. However, based on recent studies, it is not clear whether chimpanzees have any regard for others, calling into the question the point at which fairness and other-regard were used as building blocks for full-fledged human morality.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmpathy and Fairness
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780470030585
ISBN (Print)047002626X, 9780470026267
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2008


  • Human attribution and moral judgment
  • Intention reading in apes
  • Moral judgments and actions in non-human animals
  • Psychological states in human social interactions
  • Understanding intentional action in others


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