Abstract # 119:

Scheduled for Saturday, June 19, 2010 08:00 AM-08:10 AM: Session 20 (Medallion Ballroom B) Oral Presentation


THE EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT ON PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL COGNITIVE ABILITIES IN PAN

J. L. Russell1, J. A. Schaeffer1, H. Lyn2, J. G. Herndon1 and W. D. Hopkins1,2
1Yerkes National Primate Research Ctr., Emory University, 954 Gatewood Rd., Atlanta, GA 30329, USA, 2Agnes Scott College
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Two groups of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and two groups of bonobos (Pan paniscus) with different rearing histories and testing experiences were given a battery of tasks designed to assess the apes’ cognitive abilities in both the physical and social domains.  Initial results revealed that apes reared in socially enriched environments performed better in both domains.  However, these apes also had more experimental testing experience than their standard reared counterparts.  To further explore this finding, we re-tested a subset of chimpanzees on the same tasks approximately 18 months later.  A repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant main effect for test number,[F(1,13)=7.472, P<.05].  Post-hoc analysis showed that chimpanzees performed significantly better during re-test of several tasks related to physical cognition including Object Permanence, Rotation and Transposition demonstrating a learning effect.  No other significant differences were found between the initial tests and the re-tests.  With testing experience, chimpanzees significantly improve on tasks related to physical cognition but not on tests of social abilities.  These data suggest that while environment is important in the development of both physical and social cognition, these domains are differentially influenced by different environmental factors.  Specifically, social cognition is primarily influenced by early rearing and is less malleable later in life.  In contrast, even adult chimpanzees can easily improve their physical cognitive abilities given a small amount of testing experience.