The goggles experiment: can chimpanzees use self-experience to infer what a competitor can see?

Katja Karg*, Martin Schmelz, Josep Call, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In two experiments, we investigated whether chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, can use self-experience to infer what another sees. Subjects first gained self-experience with the visual properties of an object (either opaque or see-through). In a subsequent test phase, a human experimenter interacted with the object and we tested whether chimpanzees understood that the experimenter experienced the object as opaque or as see-through. Crucially, in the test phase, the object seemed opaque to the subject in all cases (while the experimenter could see through the one that they had experienced as see-through before), such that she had to use her previous self-experience with the object to correctly infer whether the experimenter could or could not see when looking at the object. Chimpanzees did not attribute their previous self-experience with the object to the experimenter in a gaze-following task (experiment 1); however, they did so successfully in a competitive context (experiment 2). We conclude that chimpanzees successfully used their self-experience to infer what the competitor sees. We discuss our results in relation to the well-known 'goggles experiment' and address alternative explanations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-221
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Volume105
Early online date26 May 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Keywords

  • Chimpanzee
  • Experience projection
  • Perspective taking
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind

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