Great Apes Use Weight as a Cue to Find Hidden Food

Cornelia Schrauf*, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Bonobos (Pan paniscus; n = 5), orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus abelii; n = 6), and a gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla; n = 1) were presented with two opaque cups, one empty and one baited (containing two bananas). Subjects had to independently gain weight information about the contents of the cups to find the hidden food. Six apes attained above chance level within a total of 16 trials. Successful subjects spontaneously adopted the method of successively lifting the cups and thus comparing their weight before making a choice. Prior to testing, these apes had participated in a weight discrimination task. To rule out that a subject's good performance was influenced by previous experience in weight experiments, we ran a second test in which the same task was presented to a group of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes; n = 9) who were naive to weight experiments. These subjects also participated in an additional test condition in which the same problem was presented based on learning to associate arbitrary visual stimuli. The results show that experience did not affect performance because the nine naive subjects were equally able to find the food when the task stimuli held a causal relation (i.e. weight indicates the hidden food). Interestingly, only one of the naive subjects solved the task when the task elements held an arbitrary relation (i.e. certain visual pattern indicates food). Our results confirm previous findings that apes perform better in problems grounded on causal compared to arbitrary relations. Am. J. Primatol. 73: 323-334, 2011. (C) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-334
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • weight discrimination
  • kinesthetic perception
  • causality


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