Task constraints mask great apes' ability to solve the trap-table task

Antje Girndt*, T. Meier, J. Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Researchers have investigated animals' causal knowledge with a task requiring subjects to use a tool to bring a reward within reach whilst avoiding a trap. Previous studies have suggested limitations in the ability of several species to avoid traps in tubes or tables. However, certain features may have inflated task difficulty. We tested 20 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), 7 orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), 5 bonobos (Pan paniscus), and 5 gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) in the trap-table-a task in which subjects have to pull one of two rakes prepositioned behind two rewards on a flat surface. One of the rewards is in front of a trap into which it will fall. We investigated the effect of trap type, tool type, the number of available tools, and reinforcement regime on performance. We replicated previous findings showing that apes failed to choose the correct rake above chance. However, when they could instead choose where to insert a single tool, around 80% of the apes solved the trap-table task in the first trial, revealing an important effect of task constraints on their performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-62
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008

Keywords

  • tool-use
  • problem solving
  • inhibition
  • primates
  • causal knowledge
  • MONKEYS CEBUS-APELLA
  • SAGUINUS-OEDIPUS
  • TOOL USE
  • FEATURES
  • COMPREHENSION
  • COMPETENCE
  • TAMARINS

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