"Mind Reading" in Chimpanzees

Session Date: 
Oct 18, 2013

For many years, I have studied chimpanzees both in the laboratory and in the wild. The “Ai project” is a long-running laboratory study at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University, Japan. Findings have revealed that young chimpanzees have an extraordinary photographic memory; chimpanzees can memorize, at a glance, numerals displayed on a computer monitor. This is a cognitive task at which young chimpanzees do better than adult humans. Laboratory research has demonstrated various social aspects of cognitive performance in chimpanzees, including cooperation and altruistic behavior. How do they use this intelligence in their natural habitat? Fieldwork has been carried out on chimpanzees in Bossou, Guinea-Conakry, West Africa. Wild chimpanzees have cultural traditions, behaviors unique to each community. For example, Bossou chimpanzees use a pair of stones to crack open oil-palm nuts. Observing the behavior acquisition process showed clearly that imitation is not an easy task for them. In summary, apes do not, in fact, ape. Imitation is seemingly a unique characteristic of human behavior. However, there are several cases in which we see ‘mind-reading’ in chimpanzees. This talk will illuminate the mind of the chimpanzee, focusing in particular on their apparent capacity to ‘read’ the others minds.

File 2013_10_18_004_Matsuzawa.mp4100.55 MB