6.1 Mammals

What are the cognitive capacities of nonhuman mammals? How do the mental skills of chimpanzees and monkeys, of pigs and dogs, compare with those of humans?

Herrmann, Call, Hernandez-Lloreda, Hare, and Tomasello argue against the hypothesis that humans have more "general intelligence" than chimpanzees. In their experiment, they discovered that children and chimpanzees seem to have had "very similar cognitive skills for dealing with the physical world but that the children had more sophisticated cognitive skills than either of the ape species for dealing with the social world."

Frans De Waal is a professor of primate behavior at Emory University. He wrote Chimpanzee Politics, Our Inner Ape, and Of Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. In his essay responding to Herrmann, he notes that apes are at a disadvantage in the study because they have a human experimenter providing the social cues. We would expect those having to learn social skills from a member of another species to do so more slowly.

In 1997, Tomasello, Call and Hare argued in Primate Cognition (Oxford: Oxford University Press) that chimps did not understand any psychological processes in others. Six years later, however, in a 2003 article, they report changing their minds on the basis of the results of an experiment in which they studied the behaviors of chimps with knowledge of food not visible to other chimps. Why do the authors now believe that chimps can attribute minds to others, and understand others' actions as motivated by reasons?

Author: comstock
Maintained By: Gary Comstock
Last Updated: 2010-03-22