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Spontaneous social tool use in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

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Author(s)

Manon K. Schweinfurth, Sarah E. Detroy, Edwin J. C. Van Leeuwen, Josep Call, Daniel B. M. Haun

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Abstract

Although there is good evidence that social animals show elaborate cognitive skills to deal with others, there are few reports of animals physically using social agents and their respective responses as means to an end—social tool use. In this case study, we investigated spontaneous and repeated social tool use behavior in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We presented a group of chimpanzees with an apparatus, in which pushing two buttons would release juice from a distantly located fountain. Consequently, any one individual could only either push the buttons or drink from the fountain but never push and drink simultaneously. In this scenario, an adult male attempted to retrieve three other individuals and push them toward the buttons that, if pressed, released juice from the fountain. With this strategy, the social tool user increased his juice intake 10-fold. Interestingly, the strategy was stable over time, which was possibly enabled by playing with the social tools. With over 100 instances, we provide the biggest data set on social tool use recorded among nonhuman animals so far. The repeated use of other individuals as social tools may represent a complex social skill linked to Machiavellian intelligence.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-463
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Volume132
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2018

    Research areas

  • Social tool use, Chimpanzee, Exploitation, Machiavellian intelligence

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