Do capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella) use exploration to form intuitions about physical properties?

Eleanor Jordan, Christoph Johannes Voelter, Amanda Madeleine Seed*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Humans’ flexible innovation relies on our capacity to accurately predict objects’ behaviour. These predictions may originate from a “physics-engine” in the brain which simulates our environment. To explore the evolutionary origins of intuitive physics, we investigate whether capuchin monkeys’ object exploration supports learning. Two capuchin groups experienced exploration sessions involving multiple copies of two objects, one object was easily opened (functional), the other was not (non-functional). We used two within-subject conditions (enrichment-then-test, and test-only) with two object sets per group. Monkeys then underwent individual test sessions where the objects contained rewards, and they choose one to attempt to open. The monkeys spontaneously explored, performing actions which yielded functional information. At test, both groups chose functional objects above chance. While high performance of the test-only group precluded us from establishing learning during exploration, this study reveals the promise of harnessing primates’ natural exploratory tendencies to understand how they see the world.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jun 2022


  • Exploration
  • Curiosity
  • Physical cognition
  • Learning
  • Capuchin monkeys


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