Great apes infer others' goals based on context.
In previous studies claiming to demonstrate that great apes understand the goals of others, the apes could potentially have been using subtle behavioral cues present during the test to succeed. In the current studies, we ruled out the use of such cues by making the behavior of the experimenter identical in the test phase of both the experimental and control conditions; the only difference was the preceding "context." In the first study, apes interpreted a human's ambiguous action as having the underlying goal of opening a box, or not, based on that human's previous actions with similar boxes. In the second study, chimpanzees learned that when a human stood up she was going to go get food for them, but when a novel, unexpected event happened, they changed their expectation-presumably based on their understanding that this new event led the human to change her goal. These studies suggest that great apes do not need concurrent behavioral cues to infer others' goals, but can do so from a variety of different types of cues-even cues displaced in time.
Buttelmann, D; Schütte, S; Carpenter, M; Call, J; Tomasello, M
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)