Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

The cognitive underpinnings of flexible tool use in great apes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Abstract

Nonhuman primates perform poorly in trap tasks, a benchmark test of causal knowledge in nonhuman animals. However, recent evidence suggests that when the confound of tool use is avoided, great apes' performance improves dramatically. In the present study, we examined the cognitive underpinnings of tool use that contribute to apes' poor performance in trap tasks. We presented chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus), and orangutans (Pongo abelii) with different versions of a maze-like multilevel trap task. We manipulated whether the apes had to use their fingers or a stick to negotiate a reward through the maze. Furthermore, we varied whether the apes obtained visual information about the functionality of the traps (i.e., blockage of free passage) or only arbitrary color stimuli indicating the location of the traps. We found that (a) apes in the finger-maze task outperformed apes in the tool-use-maze task (and partially planned their moves multiple steps ahead), and (b) tool-using apes failed to learn to avoid the traps and performed similar to apes that did not obtain functional information about the traps. Follow-up experiments with apes that already learned to avoid the traps showed that tool use or the color cues per se did not pose a problem for experienced apes. These results suggest that simultaneously monitoring 2 spatial relations (the tool-reward and reward-surface relation) might overstrain apes' cognitive system. Thus, trap tasks involving tool use might constitute a dual task loading on the same cognitive resources; a candidate for these shared resources is the attentional system.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-302
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Volume40
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Chimpanzees use observed temporal directionality to learn novel causal relations

    Tennie, C., Voelter, C. J., Vonau, V., Hanus, D., Call, J. & Tomasello, M., 23 Sep 2019, In : Primates. First Online, 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Bargaining in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): the effect of cost, amount of gift, reciprocity and communication

    Bueno-Guerra, N., Voelter, C. J., de las Heras, Á., Colell, M. & Call, J., 27 Jun 2019, In : Journal of Comparative Psychology. Online First

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Intuitive optics: what great apes infer from mirrors and shadows

    Völter, C. J. & Call, J., 2 May 2018, In : Animal Cognition. First Online, 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Great Apes Select Tools on the Basis of Their Rigidity

    Manrique, H. M., Gross, A. N-M. & Call, J., Oct 2010, In : Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes. 36, 4, p. 409-422 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Searching in the Middle-Capuchins' (Cebus apella) and Bonobos' (Pan paniscus) Behavior During a Spatial Search Task

    Poti, P., Kanngiesser, P., Saporiti, M., Amiconi, A., Blaesing, B. & Call, J., Jan 2010, In : Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes. 36, 1, p. 92-109 18 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Chimpanzees Solve the Trap Problem When the Confound of Tool-Use is Removed

    Seed, A. M., Call, J., Emery, N. J. & Clayton, N. S., Jan 2009, In : Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes. 35, 1, p. 23-34 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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

    Girndt, A., Meier, T. & Call, J., Jan 2008, In : Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes. 34, 1, p. 54-62 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 141916288

Top