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Great Apes Select Tools on the Basis of Their Rigidity

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Author(s)

Hector Marin Manrique, Alexandra Nam-Mi Gross, Josep Call

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Abstract

Wild chimpanzees select tools according to their rigidity. However, little is known about whether choices are solely based on familiarity with the materials or knowledge about tool properties. Furthermore, it is unclear whether tool manipulation is required prior to selection or whether observation alone can suffice. We investigated whether chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) (n = 9). bonobos (Pan paniscus)(n = 4), orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) (n = 6), and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) (n = 2) selected new tools on the basis of their rigidity. Subjects faced an out-of-reach reward and a choice of three tools differing in color, diameter, material, and rigidity. We used 10 different 3-tool sets ( I rigid, 2 flexible). Subjects were unfamiliar with the tools and needed to select and use the rigid tool to retrieve the reward. Experiment I showed that subjects chose the rigid tool from the first trial with a 90% success rate. Experiments 2a and 2b addressed the role of manipulation and observation in tool selection. Subjects performed equally well in conditions in which they could manipulate the tools themselves or saw the experimenter manipulate the tools but decreased their performance if they could only visually inspect the tools. Experiment 3 showed that subjects could select flexible tools (as opposed to rigid ones) to meet new task demands. We conclude that great apes spontaneously selected unfamiliar rigid or flexible tools even after gathering minimal observational information.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-422
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010

    Research areas

  • tool use, object properties, problem solving, primates, GORILLAS GORILLA-GORILLA, SAGUINUS-OEDIPUS, FUNCTIONALLY RELEVANT, CORVUS-MONEDULOIDES, CALEDONIAN CROWS, PAN-TROGLODYTES, CHIMPANZEES, FEATURES, SOLVE, TASK

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