Apes can tell when humans are wrong
Great apes, including chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos, might be able to tell when humans are wrong, according to researchers. In a study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers revealed experiments in which great apes helped humans when witnessed them making an incorrect decision.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany tested 34 apes to see whether they would be able to accurately determine when a person was wrong. As the apes looked on, researchers had a person place an object in one of two boxes before leaving the room. A second person would then enter the room and switch the location of the object. When the first person returned to look for the object in its original place, the apes were able to assist the humans in finding the object.
“This study shows for the first time that great apes can use an understanding of false beliefs to help others appropriately,” said David Buttelmann, the lead author of the study.
Previous studies led researchers to believe that great apes did not have this capacity for understanding the intent of humans. The study cautioned that additional research is necessary to further investigate the ability to discern false beliefs.
“Apes are able to use this understanding in their social interactions,” the study said. “If supported by further research, the apparent difference between great ape and human social cognition would thus lie not in their basic capacity to ‘read’ other minds, but elsewhere.”
Other recent research has shown similarities between humans and great apes. In March, scientists revealed that they may have observed for the first time ever a chimpanzee performing funeral rites. A chimpanzee named Noel housed at a wildlife refuge in Zambia was seen using a blade of grass to clean the body of her adopted son after his death.
“To date, this behavior has never been reported in chimpanzees or any other non-animal human species,” said Dr. Edwin van Leeuwen, a research fellow at the University of St. Andrews and the lead author of the study. “Chimpanzees may form long-lasting social bonds and, like humans, may handle corpses in a socially meaningful way.”Apes can tell when humans are wrong: