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Chimps Can Guess What You’re Thinking

Chimps Can Guess What You’re Thinking

A new study shows that chimpanzees can figure out what others are thinking.

The study was conducted using chimps housed at the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center in Germany. Researchers set up an experiment in which they allowed the chimps to see them hiding food. Then they let one chimp go search for the food, unseen by the others. 
If Chimp A had the opportunity to look for the food in advance, then Chimp B was less likely to check the place he saw the researcher hide the food before.

This shows that the chimps were able to guess at what the other chimps would likely do in a situation. If Chimp B knows that he would have looked under the left side of the table, then he presumes that Chimp A would do the same and therefore he estimates that the food from under that spot is already gone, so there’s no point in searching there.

There is a subtle but important difference between figuring out what others know, and figuring out what others might think. Chimpanzees have already been shown to be capable of the former; they can easily figure out what others know. One example is that subordinate chimpanzees will eat food first if they know the dominant chimps – who would normally get first dibs on food – cannot see them.

This is the first time, however, that chimpanzees have been shown to be capable of determining what others might think.

From an ethical standpoint, it is another piece of evidence that intelligence isn’t a dichotomy with us on one side and nonhuman animals on the other. The difference in cognitive capabilities between us and animals is almost universally cited as justification for our treatment of animals, but the more that we learn about animals, the more we learn that intelligence is a gradient. 

We’re consistently learning that animals are capable of mental functions that we once thought were exclusive to humans.

Humans have been woefully ignorant of so many aspects of animal physiology and brain function for so long that we are appropriately astounded by the new information that we gather.

The ethical question isn’t whether or not chimpanzee intelligence should give them some special status above other animals and should excuse them from cruel treatment. The ethical question is whether we can – in light of viewing intelligence as a gradient – come up with logical justification for drawing a line of moral consideration anywhere in the animal kingdom. I don’t think we can.

The more we learn about animals, the more we learn that we are just like them: sentient animals inhabiting this planet together. If you can look into a chimp’s eyes and see a little bit of yourself, why can’t you look into a pig’s eyes or a cow’s eyes and see a little bit of yourself there too?

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Photo: Tiswango

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50 comments

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8:02AM PDT on May 18, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

8:50PM PST on Feb 24, 2013

thank you

8:50PM PST on Feb 24, 2013

thank you

5:44PM PST on Feb 24, 2013

I can only imagine the agonizing torment and depression that these incredible animals endure regularly for Mankind's barberic and twisted experiments...makes me so mad. We all need to respect,appreciate and protect these fabulous Chimps. Thanks.

4:23PM PST on Feb 24, 2013

Cool.

4:22PM PST on Feb 24, 2013

Cool.

5:23AM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

According to Kristina G's argument we humans nothing like animals, that we ceased to be so as soon as we chose to live with a roof over our heads and concrete under our feet. But what about humans who do not live with concrete over their feet and less permanent roofs over their heads, like straw or mud? In other words, what about the humans who still live as hunter-gatherers? Are they less human because they do not live as we do with concrete beneath our feet and tiled roofs over our heads? Does that mean we are "superior" to them because we have "advanced" from being hunter gatherers? Or, what about the Inuits who still survive in their barren landscapes, only by hunting and either consuming what they catch/kill or by selling it? Dare we suggest they are inferior?

6:55AM PDT on Aug 14, 2012

To any poster who claims they are "on top of the food chain", I suggest you prove it by going naked into the wilds of somewhere like the Ozarks in Missouri and trying to grab yourself an animal to eat, using only your teeth and claws. Your best bet for food would be sushi from a clean stream that has healthy looking crawdads in it, though you shouldn't eat the crawdads unless you can cook them over a fire. You might be able to sink your tiny canines into a small fish's belly and still avoid parasites. Oh, do try to stay "on top" of that food chain! We wouldn't want you sliding off on your naked backside underneath the cloven hooves of a wild boar, or a very hungry panther that is equipped with a real carnivore's teeth and claws.





3:40PM PDT on Aug 13, 2012

hmmm

3:40PM PDT on Aug 13, 2012

hmmm

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