Research Article

Spontaneous Innovation for Future Deception in a Male Chimpanzee

  • Mathias Osvath mail,

    Affiliation: Department of Cognitive Science, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

  • Elin Karvonen

    Affiliation: Lund University Primate Research Station Furuvik, Furuvik, Sweden

  • Published: May 09, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036782

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An episodic system in the mind of chimpanzees?

Posted by Chapouthier on 13 May 2012 at 13:33 GMT

Since they do not use, as humans, complex languages, higher animals are often perceived as unable of abstract thinking. Several recent ethological data tend however to show the opposite, that is, tend to suggest that mammals and birds, at least, are much more intellectually gifted than classically assumed. The present observation on a male chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo confirm this fact. In a former article, the authors already mentioned that chimpanzees can prepare stones in a calm state in the morning to use them as projectiles, later in the day, in agitated displays, against zoo visitors. In the present article, the authors show that this chimpanzee can invent a method of hiding the projectiles in advance from the view of future zoo visitors (“by making concealment of hay ands using naturally occurring obstacles “). This is both an innovative behaviour and “a case of tactical deception aimed at a perceptually and contextually detached future situation”. To a certain extend, these results suggest that the chimpanzees can imagine the future behaviours of others while those others (the zoo visitors) are not present, “as well as take actions in the current situation towards such potential future behaviours”. All this also suggest the existence, in the mind of the chimpanzees, of an episodic system, similar to the one of humans : “the chimpanzee by his actions actually produces a future outcome” (instead of merely preparing for re-occurring future, which would be a more conventional “semantic” approach, using systematic “rules”).

No competing interests declared.