Social and Physical Reasoning in Human-reared Chimpanzees

Jennifer Vonk and Daniel J. Povinelli

in Perception, Causation, and Objectivity

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199692040
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729713 | DOI:

Series: Consciousness & Self-Consciousness Series

Social and Physical Reasoning in Human-reared Chimpanzees

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Some theorists have speculated that apes reared by humans may develop sophisticated cognitive abilities not present (or only weakly developed) in other apes. This idea has become known as the ‘enculturation hypothesis.' We report the results of four studies conducted with three human-reared juvenile chimpanzees to explore the feasibility of a large-scale, long-term project that could be conducted to examine the effects of early human cultural experience on chimpanzee cognitive development. Specifically, Studies 1 and 2 explored aspects of their social cognition related to their understanding of visual attention. Studies 3 and 4 examined their understanding of physical causality in two tool-using tasks. Their performances were similar to that of peer-reared chimpanzees previously tested using similar procedures. We conclude that such studies should be pursued further to explore plasticity in the cognitive-developmental systems of humans and apes.

Keywords: enculturation; causality; chimpanzees; cognitive development

Chapter.  11110 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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