Animal Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 83–97

Raking it in: the impact of enculturation on chimpanzee tool use

Original Paper


Recent evidence for different tool kits, proposed to be based upon culture-like transmission, have been observed across different chimpanzee communities across Western Africa. In light of these findings, the reported failures by seven captive juvenile chimpanzees tested with 27 tool use tasks (Povinelli 2000) seem enigmatic. Here we report successful performance by a group of nine captive, enculturated chimpanzees, and limited success by a group of six semi-enculturated chimpanzees, on two of the Povinelli tasks, the Flimsy Tool task, and the Hybrid Tool task. All chimpanzees were presented with a rake with a flimsy head and a second rake with a rigid head, either of which could be used to attempt to retrieve a food reward that was out of reach. The rigid rake was constructed such that it had the necessary functional features to permit successful retrieval, while the flimsy rake did not. Both chimpanzee groups in the present experiment selected the functional rigid tool correctly to use during the Flimsy Tool task. All animals were then presented with two “hybrid rakes” A and B, with one half of each rake head constructed from flimsy, non-functional fabric, and the other half of the head was made of wood. Food rewards were placed in front of the rigid side of Rake A and the flimsy side of Rake B. To be successful, the chimps needed to choose the rake that had the reward in front of the rigid side of the rake head. The fully enculturated animals were successful in selecting the functional rake, while the semi-enculturated subjects chose randomly between the two hybrid tools. Compared with findings from Povinelli, whose non-enculturated animals failed both tasks, our results demonstrate that chimpanzees reared under conditions of semi-enculturation could learn to discriminate correctly the necessary tool through trial-and-error during the Flimsy Tool task, but were unable to recognize the functional relationship necessary for retrieving the reward with the “hybrid” rake. In contrast, the enculturated chimpanzees were correct in their choices during both the Flimsy Tool and the Hybrid Tool tasks. These results provide the first empirical evidence for the differential effects of enculturation on subsequent tool use capacities in captive chimpanzees.


Tool use Enculturation Social learning Chimpanzees 


  1. Bard KA, Gardner KH (1996) Influences on development in infant chimpanzees: enculturation, temperament, and cognition. In: Parker ST, Mitchell RW, Boccia ML (eds) Reaching into thought: the minds of the great apes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 235–256Google Scholar
  2. Bayley N (1969) Bayley scales of infant development. Psychological Corporation, New York, pp 235–256Google Scholar
  3. Bering JM (2004) A critical review of the “enculturation hypothesis”: the effects of human rearing on great ape social cognition. Anim Cogn 7:201–212PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bjorklund DF, Yunger JL, Bering JM, Ragan P (2002) The generalization of deferred imitation in enculturated chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Anim Cogn 5:49–50PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Boesch-Ackerman H, Boesch C (1993) Tool use in wild chimpanzees: new light from dark forests. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 2:18–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boesch C, Boesch H (1990) Tool use and tool making in wild chimpanzees. Folia Primatol 54:86–99PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boesch C (1995) Innovation in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Int J Primatol 16:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boysen ST, Berntson GG (1989) Numerical competence in a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol 103:23–31PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boysen ST (1993) The development of numerical competence: animal and human models. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJGoogle Scholar
  10. Boysen ST (1997) Representation of quantities by apes. Adv Stud Behav 26:435–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boysen ST, Berntson GG, Mukobi KL (2001) Size matters: impact of item size and quantity on array choice by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol 115:106–110PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brent L, Bloomsmith MA, Fisher SD (1995) Factors determining tool-using ability in two captive chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Colonies Prim 36:265–274Google Scholar
  13. Brewer SM, McGrew WC (1990) Chimpanzee use of a tool-set to get honey. Folia Primatol 54:100–104PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Brown D, Boysen ST (2000) Spontaneous discrimination of natural stimuli by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol 114:392–400PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Call J, Tomasello M (1996) The effect of humans on the cognitive development of apes. In: Russon AE, Bard KA, Parker ST (eds) Reaching into thought: the minds of the great apes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 371–402Google Scholar
  16. Celli ML, Tomonaga M, Udono T, Teramoto M, Nagano K (2003) Tool use task as environmental enrichment for captive chimpanzees. Appl Anim Behav Sci 81:171–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gen Y, Sugiyama Y (1995) Pestle-pounding behavior of wild chimpanzees at Bossou, Guinea: a newly observed tool-using behavior. Primatology 36:489–500Google Scholar
  18. Goodall J (1968) Social rejection, exclusion and shunning among the Gombe chimpanzees. Ethol Sociobiol 7:227–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harlow H (1949) The formation of learning sets. Psychol Rev 56:51CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Hirata S, Myowa M, Matsuzawa T (1998) Use of leaves as cushions to sit on wet ground by wild chimpanzees. Am J Primatol 44:215–220PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hirata S, Morimura N (2000) Naïve chimpanzees’ (Pan troglodytes) observation of experienced conspecifics in a tool-using task. J Comp Psychol 114:291–296PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Humle T, Matsuzawa T (2002) Ant-dipping among the chimpanzees of Bossou, Guinea, and some comparisons with other sites. Am J Primatol 58:133–148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Inoue-Nakamura N, Matsuzawa T (1997) Development of stone tool use by wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol 111:159–173PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kitahara-Frisch J, Norikoshi K (1982) Spontaneous sponge-making in captive chimpanzees. J Hum Evol 11:41–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kuhlmeier VA, Boysen ST, Mukobi KL (1999) Scale model comprehension by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol 113:396–402PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kuhlmeier VA, Boysen ST (2001) The effect of response contingencies on scale model task performance by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol 115:300–306PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Limongelli L, Boysen ST, Visalberghi E (1995) Comprehension of cause-effect relations in a tool-using task by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). J Comp Psychol 109:18–26PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McGrew W (1992) Chimpanzee material culture: implications for human evolution. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  29. McGrew W, Ham RM, White LJT, Tutin CEG, Fernandez M (1997) Why don’t chimpanzees in Gabon crack nuts? Int J Primatol 18:353–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Menzel E, Davenport RK, Rogers CHM (1970) The development of tool using in wild-born and restriction-reared chimpanzees. Folia Primatol 12:273–283PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Morimura N (2003) A note on enrichment for spontaneous tool use by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Appl Anim Behav Sci 82:241–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nagell K, Olguin RS, Tomasello M (1993) Processes of social learning in the tool use of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and human children (Homo sapiens). J Comp Psychol 108:174–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Povinelli DJ (2000) Folk physics for apes: the chimpanzee’s theory of how the world works. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Povinelli DJ, Reaux JE, Theall LA (2000) The flimsy-tool problem. In: Povinelli DJ (ed) Folk physics for apes: the chimpanzees’ view of how the world works. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 163–172Google Scholar
  35. Pruetz JD, Bertolani P (2007) Savanna chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus, hunt with tools. Curr Biol 17:412–417PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Siegel S, Castellan NJ (1988) Nonparametric statistics for the behavioral sciences. McGraw Hill, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  37. Tomasello M, Davis-Dasilva MLC, Bard KA (1987) Observational learning of tool-use by young chimpanzees. Hum Evol 2:175–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tomasello M, Savage-Rumbaugh S, Krueger J (1993) Imitative learning of actions on objects by children, chimpanzees, and enculturated chimpanzees. Child Dev 64:1688–1705PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tomasello M, Call J (1997) Primate cognition. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  40. Tomasello M, Call J (2004) The role of humans in the cognitive development of apes revisited. Anim Cogn 7:213–215PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tomasello M, Carpenter M (2005) The emergence of social cognition in three young chimpanzees. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 70:1–132Google Scholar
  42. Tonooka R, Tonooka M, Matsuzawa T (1997) Acquisition and transmission of tool making and use for drinking juice in a group of captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Jpn Psychol Res 39:253–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tonooka R (2001) Leaf-folding behavior for drinking water by wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) verus) at Bossou, Guinea. Anim Cogn 4:325–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Visalberghi E, Limongelli L (1994) Lack of comprehension of cause-effect relation in tool using capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). J Comp Psychol 108:15–22PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Visalberghi E, Fragaszy DM, Savage-Rumbaugh S (1995) Performance in a tool-using task by common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus), an orangutan (Pongo pygmaus) and capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). J Comp Psychol 109:52–60PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Whiten A, Goodall J, McGrew W, Nishida T, Reynolds V, Sugiyama Y, Tutin C, Wrangham R, Boesch C (2001) Charting cultural variation in chimpanzees. Behavior 138:1481–1516CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations