Animal Cognition

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 225–233 | Cite as

Cognitive development in object manipulation by infant chimpanzees

Original Article


This study focuses on the development of spontaneous object manipulation in three infant chimpanzees during their first 2 years of life. The three infants were raised by their biological mothers who lived among a group of chimpanzees. A human tester conducted a series of cognitive tests in a triadic situation where mothers collaborated with the researcher during the testing of the infants. Four tasks were presented, taken from normative studies of cognitive development of Japanese infants: inserting objects into corresponding holes in a box, seriating nesting cups, inserting variously shaped objects into corresponding holes in a template, and stacking up wooden blocks. The mothers had already acquired skills to perform these manipulation tasks. The infants were free to observe the mothers' manipulative behavior from immediately after birth. We focused on object–object combinations that were made spontaneously by the infant chimpanzees, without providing food reinforcement for any specific behavior that the infants performed. The three main findings can be summarized as follows. First, there was precocious appearance of object–object combination in infant chimpanzees: the age of onset (8–11 months) was comparable to that in humans (around 10 months old).Second, object–object combinations in chimpanzees remained at a low frequency between 11 and 16 months, then increased dramatically at the age of approximately 1.5 years. At the same time, the accuracy of these object–object combinations also increased. Third, chimpanzee infants showed inserting behavior frequently and from an early age but they did not exhibit stacking behavior during their first 2 years of life, in clear contrast to human data.


Cognitive development Infant Chimpanzee Object manipulation Object–object combination 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Language and Intelligence, Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityAichi Japan

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