Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 375–389 | Cite as

Artifact and Artifact Categorization: Comparing Humans and Capuchin Monkeys

  • Stefano Borgo
  • Noemi Spagnoletti
  • Laure Vieu
  • Elisabetta Visalberghi


We aim to show that far-related primates like humans and the capuchin monkeys show interesting correspondences in terms of artifact characterization and categorization. We investigate this issue by using a philosophically-inspired definition of physical artifact which, developed for human artifacts, turns out to be applicable for cross-species comparison. In this approach an artifact is created when an entity is intentionally selected and some capacities attributed to it (often characterizing a purpose). Behavioral studies suggest that this notion of artifact is not specific to the human kind. On the basis of the results of a series of field observations and experiments on wild capuchin monkeys that routinely use stone hammers and anvils, we show that the notions of intentional selection and attributed capacity appear to be at play in capuchins as well. The study also suggests that functional criteria and contextualization play a fundamental role in terms of artifact recognition and categorization in nonhuman primates.


Physical Object Choice Location Stone Tool Capuchin Monkey Technical Artifact 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This interdisciplinary work has arisen within the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies of the Italian CNR, across the Laboratory for Applied Ontology and the Unit of Cognitive Primatology & Primate Center.

Permission to work in Brazil was granted by IBAMA and CNPq to N.S. and E.V. Thanks to the Oliveira family for permission to work at Boa Vista and logistical support. Thanks to Elsa Addessi to have collected the data of the Experiment here reported with E.V. and N.S.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefano Borgo
    • 1
  • Noemi Spagnoletti
    • 2
    • 3
  • Laure Vieu
    • 1
    • 4
  • Elisabetta Visalberghi
    • 3
  1. 1.LOA-ISTC-CNRTrentoItaly
  2. 2.PSE-IP-University of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.UCP-ISTC-CNRRomeItaly
  4. 4.IRIT-CNRSToulouseFrance

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