Tubes, tables and traps: great apes solve two functionally equivalent trap tasks but show no evidence of transfer across tasks

Gema Martin-Ordas*, Josep Call, Fernando Colmenares

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Previous studies on tool using have shown that presenting subjects with certain modifications in the experimental setup can substantially improve their performance. However, procedural modifications (e.g. trap table task) may not only remove task constraints but also simplify the problem conceptually. The goal of this study was to design a variation of the trap-table that was functionally equivalent to the trap-tube task. In this new task, the subjects had to decide where to insert the tool and in which direction the reward should be pushed. We also administered a trap-tube task that allowed animals to push or rake the reward with the tool to compare the subjects' performance on both tasks. We used a larger sample of subjects than in previous studies and from all the four species of great apes (Gorilla gorilla, Pan troglodytes, Pan paniscus, and Pongo pygmaeus). The results showed that apes performed better in the trap-platform task than in the trap-tube task. Subjects solved the tube task faster than in previous studies and they also preferred to rake in rather than to push the reward out. There was no correlation in the level of performance between both tasks, and no indication of interspecies differences. These data are consistent with the idea that apes may possess some specific causal knowledge of traps but may lack the ability to establish analogical relations between functional equivalent tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-430
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008

Keywords

  • tool-use
  • action constraints
  • primates
  • causal knowledge
  • analogy
  • MONKEYS CEBUS-APELLA
  • TOOL USE
  • CORVUS-FRUGILEGUS
  • COMPREHENSION
  • UNDERSTAND
  • ROOKS

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