Novelty in Deceit

Richard W. Byrne*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter reveals the nature of deceptive tactics as potential evidence of innovation in the social lives of individual primates. It suggests that primate tactical deception typically involves behaviour that is idiosyncratic to particular individuals, rather than species-or population-wide traits. As such, these tactics reflect innovation; although they may be used routinely by the time they are observed. This chapter further discusses the idea that out-of-context usage may constitute the bulk of innovation in animals: except in special circumstances like functional deception, this low-key innovation may go unnoticed. In contrast, it is relatively rare for deceptive manipulation to involve wholly new actions: these few cases occur particularly in great apes rather than monkeys, and the novel action is usually a modification of an action in the normal repertoire. Innovation of manipulative tactics by means of modification of everyday actions implies considerable motor flexibility, also shown by great apes in their gestural communication, and is consistent with the ability to anticipate the likely effects upon others.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnimal Innovation
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191689406
ISBN (Print)9780198526223
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2012


  • Apes
  • Gestural communication
  • Innovation
  • Monkeys
  • Primates
  • Tactics


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