Abstract # 187:

Scheduled for Sunday, September 18, 2011 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 23 (Salon G (Sixth Floor)) Poster Presentation


J. A. Schaeffer1, J. L. Russell1, S. L. Bogart1,2, H. Lyn3 and W. D. Hopkins1,2
1Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Division of Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA, 2Department of Psychology, Agnes Scott College, Decatur Georgia 30030, 3Department of Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi, Long Beach, Mississippi 39560

Despite the phylogenetic relatedness of chimpanzees and bonobos, ecological differences in environment and social structure may have given rise to differences in cognitive capabilities. Previous studies reported chimpanzees outperform bonobos on tasks involving understanding causal relationships, tool properties, and tool use, while bonobos are better at understanding intentions and gaze following. The current study examines whether these reported species differences would generalize to other captive ape populations. To examine this, we compared the performance of captive chimpanzees and bonobos from various environments on tasks assessing physical and social cognition. Tasks were modified from the previously published Primate Cognitive Test Battery (PCTB). In the physical domain, the PCTB assesses the ability to locate and track a reward (Spatial), discriminate between quantities (Quantities), and understand causal relationships and use tools (Causality). Socially, the PCTB examines the production of communicative gestures, response to another’s attentional state, utilization of communicative signals (Communication), and gaze following abilities (Theory of Mind). Results indicate that chimpanzees outperform bonobos on Spatial tasks, F(1,40)=7.77, p=.008, and on Causality tasks, F(1,40)=5.2, p=.028. No significant differences were found between species on Quantities, Communication, or Theory of Mind categories. Our results partially replicate previously published results but failed to demonstrate differences in social cognition between species. Further examination of subject variables such as rearing history, living conditions and age may provide insight into why these discrepancies occurred.