Animal Cognition

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 207–220

Do apes and children know what they have seen?

  • Josep Call
  • Malinda Carpenter
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s100710100078

Cite this article as:
Call, J. & Carpenter, M. Anim.Cogn. (2001) 3: 207. doi:10.1007/s100710100078


Chimpanzees and young children understand much about what other individuals have and have not seen. This study investigates what they understand about their own visual perception. Chimpanzees, orangutans, and 2.5-year-old children were presented with a finding game in which food or stickers were hidden in one of two or three tubes. We varied whether subjects saw the baiting of the tubes, whether subjects could see through the tubes, and whether there was a delay between baiting and presentation of the tubes to subjects. We measured not only whether subjects chose the correct tube but also, more importantly, whether they spontaneously looked into one or more of the tubes before choosing one. Most apes and children appropriately looked into the tubes before choosing one more often when they had not seen the baiting than when they had seen the baiting. In general, they used efficient search strategies more often than insufficient or excessive ones. Implications of subjects' search patterns for their understanding of seeing and knowing in the self are discussed.

Metacognition Uncertainty Self-knowledge Mental attribution Primates 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josep Call
    • 1
  • Malinda Carpenter
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Inselstrasse 22, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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