Great Apes May "Know About Knowing"

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - 6:12pm

A recent study discussed in Science Daily suggests great apes are aware that they can be wrong when making a choice. In the study, 7 captive gorillas, 8 chimpanzees, 4 bonobos and 7 orangutans were presented with 2 tubes, 1 empty and 1 with food inside. The apes' behavior in checking/looking inside the tube varied according to the quality of the bait in question, the time lapsed between the baiting and retrieval of the tube, and whether or not they could hear the food if the tube was shaken. Findings suggest the subjects were aware they might be wrong in making their choices; their behavior indicated an "information processing system that possesses complexity, flexibility and control, three of the features of metacognition," the scientists wrote.

The study was conducted by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

 Photo by Andy Nelson

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