Chapter

Cognitive development in chimpanzees: A trade-off between memory and abstraction?

Tetsuro Matsuzawa

in The Making of Human Concepts

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199549221
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191724152 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199549221.003.11
Cognitive development in chimpanzees: A trade-off between memory and abstraction?

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This chapter suggests that the strong, near-photographic memory of chimps for number may be one manifestation of a more general characteristic of a representational system that provides extraordinarily detailed records of visual scenes. Such a system may be viewed as adaptive in a cognitive niche in which rapid, categorical decisions need to be made about objects encountered (e.g. ripe vs. unripe food, friend vs. foe). By contrast, the human cognitive niche emphasizes linguistic descriptions of events that capture an abstract gist which can be communicated to others. In this sense, chimps may be likened to humans with autism who display weak central coherence (i.e. an eye for detail, but without the corresponding big-picture idea).

Keywords: chimpanzees; cognitive development; memory; abstraction; cognition

Chapter.  8016 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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