Reaching around barriers: the performance of the great apes and 3-5-year-old children.
Inhibitory control has been suggested as a key predictive measure of problem-solving skills in human and nonhuman animals. However, there has yet to be a direct comparison of the inhibitory skills of the nonhuman apes and their development in human children. We compared the inhibitory skills of all great ape species, including 3-5-year-old children in a detour-reaching task, which required subjects to avoid reaching directly for food and instead use an indirect reaching method to successfully obtain the food. We tested 22 chimpanzees, 18 bonobos, 18 orangutans, 6 gorillas and 42 children. Our sample included chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans housed in zoos (N = 27) and others housed in sanctuaries in their native habitats (N = 37). Overall, orangutans were the most skilful apes, including human children. As expected older children outperformed younger children. Sanctuary chimpanzees and bonobos outperformed their zoo counterparts whereas there was no difference between the two orangutan samples. Most zoo chimpanzees and bonobos failed to solve the original task, but improved their performance with additional training, although the training method determined to a considerable extent the level of success that the apes achieved in a transfer phase. In general, the performance of the older children was far from perfect and comparable to some of the nonhuman apes tested.
Vlamings, PHJM; Hare, B; Call, J
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