Comparing the performances of apes (Gorilla gorilla, Pan troglodytes, Pongo pygmaeus) and human children (Homo sapiens) in the floating peanut task

Daniel Hanus*, Natacha Mendes, Claudio Tennie, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Recently, Mendes et al. [1] described the use of a liquid tool (water) in captive orangutans. Here, we tested chimpanzees and gorillas for the first time with the same "floating peanut task." None of the subjects solved the task. In order to better understand the cognitive demands of the task, we further tested other populations of chimpanzees and orangutans with the variation of the peanut initially floating or not. Twenty percent of the chimpanzees but none of the orangutans were successful. Additional controls revealed that successful subjects added water only if it was necessary to obtain the nut. Another experiment was conducted to investigate the reason for the differences in performance between the unsuccessful (Experiment 1) and the successful (Experiment 2) chimpanzee populations. We found suggestive evidence for the view that functional fixedness might have impaired the chimpanzees' strategies in the first experiment. Finally, we tested how human children of different age classes perform in an analogous experimental setting. Within the oldest group (8 years), 58 percent of the children solved the problem, whereas in the youngest group (4 years), only 8 percent were able to find the solution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19555
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume6
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2011

Keywords

  • Tool-Use
  • Functional Fixedness
  • Cumulative Culture
  • Caledonian Crows
  • Archer Fish
  • Chimpanzees
  • Orangutans
  • Evolution
  • Cognition

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