Animal Cognition

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 777–781 | Cite as

Great ape foresight is looking great

  • Mathias OsvathEmail author


Suddendorf, Corballis and Collier-Baker (Anim Cogn 12: 751–754, 2009) comment on a study on great ape foresight (Osvath and Osvath, Anim Cogn 11: 661–674, 2008). That study consisted of four experiments investigating foresight in chimpanzees and orangutans, examining in particular whether the planning they exhibit is best explained by assuming an episodic cognitive system. This system has widely been regarded as exclusive to humans. Indeed, the Bischof-Köhler hypothesis explicitly states that planning for a future need is outside the abilities of non-humans. In our paper, we argued that the results implied the presence of episodic abilities and challenged the Bischof-Köhler hypothesis. Suddendorf et al. are not ready to accept this claim. They critique each experiment in detail and maintain their view that episodic cognition is unique to humans. Here, I point out the misapprehensions and weaknesses in their critique notably a lack of appreciation for how the experiments in the study are interrelated and serve as controls for each other and for the baseline experiment. I reinforce my earlier conclusions with a number of recently published findings.


Foresight Planning Mental time travel The Bischof-Köhler hypothesis Episodic memory Great apes 



I thank Joel Parthemore, Tomas Persson and Caroline Raby for their valuable comments on the manuscript.


  1. Bolles RC (1970) Species-specific defence reactions and avoidance learning. Psych Rev 77:32–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Correia SPC, Dickinson A, Clayton NS (2007) Western scrub-jays anticipate future needs independently of their current motivational state. Curr Biol 17:856–861CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Dufour V, Sterck EHM (2008) Chimpanzees fail to plan in an exchange task but succeed in a tool-using procedure. Behav Proc 79:19–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Hesslow G (2002) Conscious thought as a simulation of behaviour and perception. Trends Cognit Sci 6:242–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Martin-Ordas G, Haun D, Colmenares F, Call J (2010) Keeping track of time: evidence for episodic-like memory in great apes. Anim Cogn 13:331–340CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Mulcahy NJ, Call J (2006) Apes save tool for future use. Science 312:1038–1040CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Osvath M (2009) Spontaneous planning for future stone throwing by a male chimpanzee. Curr Biol 19:R190–R191CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Osvath M, Osvath H (2008) Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and orangutan (Pongo abelii) forethought: self-control and pre-experience in the face of future tool use. Anim Cogn 11:661–674CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Raby CR, Alexis DM, Dickinson A, Clayton NS (2007) Planning for the future by western scrub-jays. Nature 445:919–921CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Rilling JK, Barks SK, Parr LA, Preuss TM, Faber TL, Pagnoni G, Bremner JD, Votaw JR (2007) A comparison of resting-state brain activity in humans and chimpanzees. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 104:17146–17151CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Seligman MEP (1970) On the generality of the laws of learning. Psych Rev 77:406–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Suddendorf T, Busby J (2005) Making decisions with the future in mind. Learn Motiv 36:110–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Suddendorf T, Corballis MC (1997) Mental time travel and the evolution of the human mind. Genet Soc Gen Psychol Monogr 123:133–167PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Suddendorf T, Corballis MC (2008) New evidence for animal foresight? Anim Behav 75:e1–e3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Suddendorf T, Corballis MC, Collier-Baker E (2009) How great is great ape foresight? Anim Cogn 12:751–754CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Tulving E (2005) Episodic memory and autonoesis: uniquely human? In: Terrace H, Metcalfe J (eds) The missing link in cognition: evolution of self-knowing consciousness. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 3–56Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lund University Cognitive ScienceLundSweden

Personalised recommendations