Great apes' (Pan troglodytes, Pan paniscus, Gorilla gorilla, Pongo pygmaeus) understanding of tool functional properties after limited experience

Esther Herrmann*, Victoria Wobber, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Primates' understanding of tool functionality has been investigated extensively using a paradigm in which subjects are presented with a tool that they must use to obtain an out-of-reach reward. After being given experience on an initial problem, monkeys can transfer their skill to tools of different shapes while ignoring irrelevant tool changes (e.g., color). In contrast, monkeys without initial training perform poorly on the same tasks. Compared to most monkeys, great apes show a clear propensity for tool using and may not require as much experience to succeed on tool functionality tasks. We investigated this question by presenting 171 apes (Pan troglodytes, Pan paniscus, Gorilla gorilla, and Pongo pygmaeus) with several tool-use problems without giving them initial training or familiarizing them with the test materials. Apes succeeded without experience, but only on problems based on basic properties such as the reward being supported by an object. However, only minimal experience was sufficient to allow them to quickly improve their performance on more complex problems in which the reward was not in contact with the tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-230
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Volume122
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2008

Keywords

  • tool use
  • tool properties
  • object choice task
  • problem solving
  • causal knowledge
  • MONKEYS CEBUS-APELLA
  • TAMARINS SAGUINUS-OEDIPUS
  • COTTON-TOP TAMARINS
  • DESIGN-FEATURES
  • TASK
  • CHIMPANZEES
  • COMPREHENSION
  • COMPETENCE
  • CULTURES
  • CHOICE

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