Can orangutans (Pongo abelii) infer tool functionality?

Mulcahy, Nicholas J. and Schubiger, Michèle N. (2014) Can orangutans (Pongo abelii) infer tool functionality?. Animal Cognition, 17 3: 657-669. doi:10.1007/s10071-013-0697-9

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Author Mulcahy, Nicholas J.
Schubiger, Michèle N.
Title Can orangutans (Pongo abelii) infer tool functionality?
Formatted title
Can orangutans (Pongo abelii) infer tool functionality?
Journal name Animal Cognition   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1435-9448
Publication date 2014-05
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s10071-013-0697-9
Open Access Status
Volume 17
Issue 3
Start page 657
End page 669
Total pages 13
Place of publication Heidelberg, Germany
Publisher Springer
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
It is debatable whether apes can reason about the unobservable properties of tools. We tested orangutans for this ability with a range of tool tasks that they could solve by using observational cues to infer tool functionality. In experiment 1, subjects successfully chose an unbroken tool over a broken one when each tool’s middle section was hidden. This prevented seeing which tool was functional but it could be inferred by noting the tools’ visible ends that were either disjointed (broken tool) or aligned (unbroken tool). We investigated whether success in experiment 1 was best explained by inferential reasoning or by having a preference per se for a hidden tool with an aligned configuration. We conducted a similar task to experiment 1 and included a functional bent tool that could be arranged to have the same disjointed configuration as the broken tool. The results suggested that subjects had a preference per se for the aligned tool by choosing it regardless of whether it was paired with the broken tool or the functional bent tool. However, further experiments with the bent tool task suggested this preference was a result of additional demands of having to attend to and remember the properties of the tools from the beginning of the task. In our last experiment, we removed these task demands and found evidence that subjects could infer the functionality of a broken tool and an unbroken tool that both looked identical at the time of choice.
Keyword Orangutans
Inferential reasoning
Physical cognition
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online: 17 October 2013.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 2 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Mon, 31 Mar 2014, 18:08:14 EST by Mrs Alison Pike on behalf of School of Psychology