Spontaneous innovation for future deception in a male chimpanzee.
BACKGROUND: The ability to invent means to deceive others, where the deception lies in the perceptually or contextually detached future, appears to require the coordination of sophisticated cognitive skills toward a single goal. Meanwhile innovation for a current situation has been observed in a wide range of species. Planning, on the one hand, and the social cognition required for deception on the other, have been linked to one another, both from a co-evolutionary and a neuroanatomical perspective. Innovation and deception have also been suggested to be connected in their nature of relying on novelty.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We report on systematic observations suggesting innovation for future deception by a captive male chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). As an extension of previously described behaviour--caching projectiles for later throwing at zoo visitors--the chimpanzee, again in advance, manufactured concealments from hay, as well as used naturally occurring concealments. All were placed near the visitors' observation area, allowing the chimpanzee to make throws before the crowd could back off. We observed what was likely the first instance of this innovation. Further observations showed that the creation of future-oriented concealments became the significantly preferred strategy. What is more, the chimpanzee appeared consistently to combine two deceptive strategies: hiding projectiles and inhibiting dominance display behaviour.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The findings suggest that chimpanzees can represent the future behaviours of others while those others are not present, as well as take actions in the current situation towards such potential future behaviours. Importantly, the behaviour of the chimpanzee produced a future event, rather than merely prepared for an event that had been reliably re-occurring in the past. These findings might indicate that the chimpanzee recombined episodic memories in perceptual simulations.