Problem solving in great apes (Pan paniscus, Pan troglodytes, Gorilla gorilla, and Pongo abelii): the effect of visual feedback

Christoph Johannes Voelter, Josep Call

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

What kind of information animals use when solving problems is a controversial topic. Previous research suggests that, in some situations, great apes prefer to use causally relevant cues over arbitrary ones. To further examine to what extent great apes are able to use information about causal relations, we presented three different puzzle box problems to the four nonhuman great ape species. Of primary interest here was a comparison between one group of apes that received visual access to the functional mechanisms of the puzzle boxes and one group that did not. Apes' performance in the first two, less complex puzzle boxes revealed that they are able to solve such problems by means of trial-and-error learning, requiring no information about the causal structure of the problem. However, visual inspection of the functional mechanisms of the puzzle boxes reduced the amount of time needed to solve the problems. In the case of the most complex problem, which required the use of a crank, visual feedback about what happened when the handle of the crank was turned was necessary for the apes to solve the task. Once the solution was acquired, however, visual feedback was no longer required. We conclude that visual feedback about the consequences of their actions helps great apes to solve complex problems. As the crank task matches the basic requirements of vertical string pulling in birds, the present results are discussed in light of recent findings with corvids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)923-936
Number of pages14
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume15
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012

Keywords

  • Problem solving
  • Causal cognition
  • Puzzle box
  • Perceptual-motor feedback
  • CONVERGENT EVOLUTION
  • TOOL MODIFICATION
  • CALEDONIAN CROWS
  • CHIMPANZEES
  • TASK
  • INTELLIGENCE
  • CORVIDS
  • CAUSAL
  • TUBES

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