, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 207-220

Do apes and children know what they have seen?

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Chimpanzees and young children understand much about what other individuals have and have not seen. This study investigates what they understand about their own visual perception. Chimpanzees, orangutans, and 2.5-year-old children were presented with a finding game in which food or stickers were hidden in one of two or three tubes. We varied whether subjects saw the baiting of the tubes, whether subjects could see through the tubes, and whether there was a delay between baiting and presentation of the tubes to subjects. We measured not only whether subjects chose the correct tube but also, more importantly, whether they spontaneously looked into one or more of the tubes before choosing one. Most apes and children appropriately looked into the tubes before choosing one more often when they had not seen the baiting than when they had seen the baiting. In general, they used efficient search strategies more often than insufficient or excessive ones. Implications of subjects' search patterns for their understanding of seeing and knowing in the self are discussed.