A surprising finding in comparative social cognition is that great apes seem to have difficulties understanding others’ communicative behaviour. In no other paradigm is this more evident than in the object-choice task in which subjects use a human cue, such as pointing, to infer the correct choice of a reward hidden in one of a number of containers. Apes often perform poorly in the task whereas many other species succeed. One popular explanation for this finding is that apes have not evolved the propensity to understand others’ communicative behaviour because their social systems are based predominantly on competitive relationships. We caution against this hypothesis by highlighting recent experimental evidence that suggests methodological factors are responsible for the apes’ poor performance in object-choice studies. Furthermore, we compared the methodology and results of 63 published object-choice studies in a range of animal taxa. We found that the central object-choice method that is only used with apes and other primates typically results in failure. When, however, modifications are made to this method or apes are tested with a peripheral method that is similar to the one used with many other species, their performance vastly improves. We discuss the significance of this in relation to past object-choice research and make several recommendations as to how future research can be improved upon so that apes are tested in a manner comparable to the testing of other animal species.