Animal Cognition

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 1069–1076 | Cite as

Chimpanzees strategically manipulate what others can see

  • Katja Karg
  • Martin Schmelz
  • Josep Call
  • Michael Tomasello
Original Paper


Humans often strategically manipulate the informational access of others to their own advantage. Although chimpanzees know what others can and cannot see, it is unclear whether they can strategically manipulate others’ visual access. In this study, chimpanzees were given the opportunity to save food for themselves by concealing it from a human competitor and also to get more food for themselves by revealing it to a human cooperator. When knowing that a competitor was approaching, chimpanzees kept more food hidden (left it covered) than when expecting a cooperator to approach. When the experimenter was already at the location of the hidden food, they actively revealed less food to the competitor than to the cooperator. They did not actively hide food (cover up food in the open) from the competitor, however. Chimpanzees thus strategically manipulated what another could see in order to maximize their payoffs and showed their ability to plan for future situations.


Deception Hiding Perspective taking Future planning Chimpanzee 



We thank L. Ajarova, the Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, for allowing us to conduct research on Ngamba Island. We are grateful to the Ngamba staff for their tremendous help and support. We also thank S. Schuette for building the apparatus, S. Tuepke for creating the graphics, and M. Yucel for reliability coding. K. Karg also gratefully acknowledges financial support by the German National Academic Foundation.

Ethical standard

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. Our research was approved by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and is in line with the ethical standards for animal research of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany.

Supplementary material

10071_2015_875_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (78 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 77 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katja Karg
    • 1
  • Martin Schmelz
    • 1
  • Josep Call
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Tomasello
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Comparative PsychologyMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.School of PsychologyUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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