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Animal Cognition

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 217–235 | Cite as

Tool use as a way to assess cognition: how do captive chimpanzees handle the weight of the hammer when cracking a nut?

  • Blandine BrilEmail author
  • Gilles Dietrich
  • Julie Foucart
  • Koki Fuwa
  • Satoshi Hirata
Original Paper

Abstract

Tool use in apes has been considered a landmark in cognition. However, while most studies concentrate on mental operations, there are very few studies of apes’ cognition as expressed in manual skills. This paper proposes theoretical and methodological considerations on movement analysis as a way of assessing primate cognition. We argue that a privileged way of appraising the characteristics of the cognitive abilities involved in tool use lies at the functional level. This implies that we focus on how the action proceeds, and more precisely, on how the functional characteristics of the task are generated. To support our view, we present the results of an experiment with five captive chimpanzees investigating the way how chimpanzees adapt to hammers of various weights while cracking nuts. The movement performed in the hammering task is analyzed in terms of energy production. Results show that chimpanzees mobilise passive as well as active forces to perform the compliant movement, that is, they modulate the dynamics of the arm/tool system. A comparison between chimpanzees suggests that experience contributes to this skill. The results suggest that in tool use, movements are not key per se, but only in as much as they express underlying cognitive processes.

Keywords

Goal oriented action Tool use Adaptation Movement reconstruction Mechanical energy Cognition Chimpanzee 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for very helpful comments and suggestions. We are very grateful to Sandra Martelli for information on anthropometric data on Chimpanzees. This research has been supported by the Action Concertée Incitative TTT P7802 n° 02 2 0440 from the French Ministère Délégué à la Recherche et aux Nouvelles Technologies and the Ministry of Education Culture, Sports Science and Technology of Japan (grant for the Biodiversity Research of the 21st century COE, A14).

Supplementary material

MOESM1 Example of a chimpanzee cracking a Macadamia nut and a Brazil nut with a hammer weighing 0.327 kg (MPG 6102 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Blandine Bril
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gilles Dietrich
    • 2
  • Julie Foucart
    • 1
  • Koki Fuwa
    • 3
  • Satoshi Hirata
    • 3
  1. 1.Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Groupe de recherche “Apprentissage et Contexte”ParisFrance
  2. 2.Ergonomie Comportement et Interaction, Équipe LAMAUniversité Paris DescartesParisFrance
  3. 3.Hayashibara Great Ape Research InstituteOkayamaJapan

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