Behavioral cues that great apes use to forage for hidden food

Buttelmann, David; Call, Josep; Tomasello, Michael (2007). Behavioral cues that great apes use to forage for hidden food. Animal Cognition, 11(1), pp. 117-128. Springer 10.1007/s10071-007-0095-2

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We conducted three studies to examine whether the four great ape species (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) are able to use behavioral experimenter-given cues in an object-choice task. In the subsequent experimental conditions subjects were presented with two eggs, one of which contained food and the other did not. In Study 1 the experimenter examined both eggs by smelling or shaking them, but only made a failed attempt to open (via biting) the egg containing food. In a control condition, the experimenter examined and attempted to open both eggs, but in reverse order to control for stimulus enhancement. The apes significantly preferred the egg that was first examined and then bitten, but had no preference in a baseline condition in which there were no cues. In Study 2, we investigated whether the apes could extend this ability to cues not observed in apes so far (i.e., attempting to pull apart the egg), as well as whether they made this discrimination based on the function of the action the experimenter performed. Subjects significantly preferred eggs presented with this novel cue, but did not prefer eggs presented with a novel but functionally irrelevant action. In Study 3, apes did not interpret human actions as cues to food-location when they already knew that the eggs were empty. Thus, great apes were able to use a variety of experimenter-given cues associated with foraging actions to locate hidden food and thereby were partially sensitive to the general purpose underlying these actions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Buttelmann, David


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology








David Buttelmann

Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2018 15:59

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 02:54

Publisher DOI:





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