Are great apes tested with an abject object-choice task?

Mulcahy, Nicholas J. and Hedge, Vernon (2012) Are great apes tested with an abject object-choice task?. Animal Behaviour, 83 2: 313-321. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.11.019

Author Mulcahy, Nicholas J.
Hedge, Vernon
Title Are great apes tested with an abject object-choice task?
Journal name Animal Behaviour   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0003-3472
Publication date 2012-02-01
Year available 2011
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.11.019
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 83
Issue 2
Start page 313
End page 321
Total pages 9
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Elsevier
Language eng
Abstract 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.
Keyword Abject object-choice
Communicative gesture
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Available online 17 December 2011

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: Official 2013 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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