Social cognition of monkeys and apes

Michael Tomasello*, Josep Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reviews what is known about the social cognition of monkeys and great apes. The literature reviewed is divided into three main content areas: (1) social interaction, including knowledge of individuals, knowledge of social relationships, alliance formation, and cooperation; (2) communication, including alarm calls, calls for recruiting allies, gestures, and the “language” skills of human‐raised apes; and (3) social learning, including the “cultural transmission” of food‐preparation behaviors, the social learning of tool use, and the social learning of vocal and gestural communication. Contrary to the hypotheses of a number of recent investigators, we find no compelling differences in the social cognition of monkeys and great apes. It is possible that differences in the social behavior of these two classes of primate are due to processes of nonsocial cognition, and it is possible that the social behavior of apes is more strongly influenced by human interaction and training.© 1994 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-305
Number of pages33
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number19 S
Publication statusPublished - 1994


  • Communication
  • Primates
  • Social cognition
  • Social interaction
  • Social learning


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