Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Our chimpanzee mind

Abstract

Some might consider the title of this piece preposterous. Bishop Wilberforce would no doubt have shaken his fist at it, just as he disputed Huxley's championing of darwinian continuity. But the title of this essay is no more outrageous than one entitled ‘The chimpanzee's bird brain’, for there has been extensive evolutionary conservation of many neural and psychological functions across species. We share with chimpanzees some—but not all—mental functions, some of which are shared with other species as well. As the publication of the chimpanzee genome reveals, we also share a good deal of our DNA. Unfortunately, we are virtually in the dark when it comes to understanding how genes build minds. If comparative genomics is to enlighten our understanding of human origins, it must be accompanied by an equally rich description of animal psychology, both in terms of its underlying neural signatures and the evolutionary processes that led to convergence and divergence with other species.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Dangerous encounters.
Figure 2: The responses of chimpanzee Ai to a serial order task involving Arabic numerals.
Figure 3: Three conditions designed to test what chimpanzees know about seeing.

References

  1. Hauser, M. D. & Spelke, E. S. in The Cognitive Neurosciences (ed. Gazzaniga, M.) 1025–1147 (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2004)

    Google Scholar 

  2. Spelke, E. Core knowledge. Am. Psychol. 55, 1233–1243 (2000)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Whiten, A. The second inheritance system of chimpanzees and humans. Nature doi:10.1038/nature04023 (this issue)

  4. de Waal, F. B. M. A century of getting to know the chimpanzee. Nature doi:10.1038/nature03999 (this issue)

  5. Butterworth, B. What Counts: How Every Brain is Hardwired for Math (Free Press, New York, 1999)

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  6. Carey, S. Evolutionary and ontogenetic foundations of arithmetic. Mind Lang. 16, 37–55 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Dehaene, S. The Number Sense (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1997)

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  8. Gallistel, C. R. The Organization of Learning (MIT Press, Cambridge, 1990)

    Google Scholar 

  9. Manson, J. H. & Wrangham, R. W. Intergroup aggression in chimpanzees and humans. Curr. Anthropol. 32, 369–390 (1991)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Wrangham, R. W. & Peterson, D. Demonic Males (Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1996)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Wilson, M. L., Hauser, M. D. & Wrangham, R. W. Does participation in cooperative intergroup conflict depend on numerical assessment, range location, or rank for wild chimpanzees? Anim. Behav. 61, 1201–1213 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Platt, J. R. & Johnson, D. M. Localization of position within a homogeneous behaviour chain: effects of error contingencies. Learn. Motiv. 2, 386–414 (1971)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Beran, M. J. Summation and numerousness judgments of sequentially presented sets of items by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J. Comp. Psychol. 115, 181–191 (2001)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Beran, M. J. & Rumbaugh, D. M. “Constructive” enumeration by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) on a computerized task. Anim. Cogn. 4, 81–89 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Wynn, K. Addition and subtraction by human infants. Nature 358, 749–750 (1992)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hauser, M. D., MacNeilage, P. & Ware, M. Numerical representations in primates. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 93, 1514–1517 (1996)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Uller, C., Hauser, M. D. & Carey, S. Spontaneous representation of number in cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). J. Comp. Psychol. 115, 248–257 (2001)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hauser, M. D. & Carey, S. Spontaneous number representations of small numbers of objects by rhesus macaques: examinations of content and format. Cogn. Psychol. 47, 367–401 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Biro, D. & Matsuzawa, T. Numerical ordering in a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes): planning, executing, and monitoring. J. Comp. Psychol. 113, 178–195 (1999)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Boysen, S. T. & Bernston, G. G. Numerical competence in a chimpanzee. J. Comp. Psychol. 103, 23–31 (1989)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Brannon, E. M. & Terrace, H. S. Ordering of the numerosities 1 to 9 by monkeys. Science 282, 746–749 (1998)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kawai, N. & Matsuzawa, T. Numerical memory span in a chimpanzee. Nature 403, 39–40 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Tomonaga, M. & Matsuzawa, T. Sequential responding to arabic numerals with wild cards by the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Anim. Cogn. 3, 1–11 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Gelman, R. & Gallistel, C. R. Language and the origin of numerical concepts. Science 306, 441–443 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Gordon, P. Numerical cognition without words: Evidence from Amazonia. Science 306, 496–499 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Pica, P., Lemer, C., Izard, V. & Dehaene, S. Exact and approximate arithmetic in an Amazonian indigene group. Science 306, 499–503 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hauser, M. D., Chomsky, N. & Fitch, W. T. The faculty of language: What is it, who has it, and how did it evolve? Science 298, 1569–1579 (2002)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Chomsky, N. On Nature and Language (Cambridge Univ. Press, New York, 2000)

    Google Scholar 

  29. Premack, D. & Premack, A. Original Intelligence (McGraw Hill, New York, 2002)

    Google Scholar 

  30. Premack, D. & Woodruff, G. Does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? Behav. Brain Sci. 4, 515–526 (1978)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Cheney, D. L. & Seyfarth, R. M. How Monkeys See the World: Inside the Mind of Another Species (Chicago Univ. Press, Chicago, 1990)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  32. Hauser, M. D. Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think (Henry Holt, New York, 2000)

    Google Scholar 

  33. Tomasello, M. & Call, J. Primate Cognition (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1997)

    Google Scholar 

  34. Povinelli, D. J. & Eddy, T. J. What young chimpanzees know about seeing. Monogr. Soc. Res. Child Dev. 247, 1–147 (1996)

    Google Scholar 

  35. Hare, B., Call, J., Agnetta, B. & Tomasello, M. Chimpanzees know what conspecifics do and do not see. Anim. Behav. 59, 771–785 (2000)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Hare, B., Call, J. & Tomasello, M. Do chimpanzees know what conspecifics know? Anim. Behav. 61, 139–151 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Call, J., Hare, B., Carpenter, M. & Tomasello, M. ‘Unwilling’ versus ‘unable’: chimpanzees' understanding of human intentional action. Dev. Sci. 7, 488–498 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Hare, B. & Tomasello, M. Chimpanzees are more skilful in competitive than in cooperative cognitive tasks. Anim. Behav. 68, 571–581 (2004)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Flombaum, J. & Santos, L. Rhesus monkeys attribute perceptions to others. Curr. Biol. 15, 1–20 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Hare, B., Brown, M., Williamson, C. & Tomasello, M. The domestication of social cognition in dogs. Science 298, 1636–1639 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Emery, N. J. & Clayton, N. S. Effects of experience and social context on prospective caching strategies by scrub jays. Nature 414, 443–446 (2001)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

For support during the writing of this article, I wish to thank the McDonnell Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and a National Science Foundation ROLE grant.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marc Hauser.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The author declares no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hauser, M. Our chimpanzee mind. Nature 437, 60–63 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03917

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03917

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing