The study involved apes watching a 'TV drama' that showed their ability to understand and anticipate others' thinking
Our ability to be able to sense what others are thinking and feeling has been an evolutionary advantage in our complex, social societies and until now, we have believed that humans are the only ones who possess this skill. However a new study has found apes such as chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans are also able to understand others have unique and different beliefs and perspectives from their own, according to a report in the LA Times.
The team of scientists from Duke University together with Fumihiro Kano of Kyoto University, set up a unique and somewhat comedic experiment that involved the primates being invited into a room to watch TV. They were given some juice and shown a scenario played out on a video monitor however, to engage the ape’s attention, the scenes were played out in a dramatic fashion and involved one researcher dressed up in a makeshift monkey suit.
Great apes are very intrigued – just like humans with soap operas or reality TV – in social unfoldings for which we previously know and with these apes, infrared cameras were fixed to track where they looked on the monitor.
Several scenarios were played out involving King Kong hiding a rock from someone and that person either finding it or not. The aim was to see if the apes could understand what was going on and anticipate the person finding the object according to what they were seeing.
Surprisingly most of the apes guessed correctly as to what was going on debunking previous beliefs that apes are unable to detect what is untrue.
The study goes towards the realization that us ‘egotistical’ humans may not be the only ones to possess the ability to comprehend many types of cognition and our nearest ape-relatives are a window into the world of thought processes previously thought to only be possessed by humankind.
Details of the study were published in the journal Science.