A new experiment shows that apes do not only share the social-cognitive skills with humans but they also understand the false beliefs others may have about a situation.
Humans' false belief that parking tickets can be avoided.
The theory of mind is the ability to ascribe one's mental state to another as to understand or predict others beliefs, feelings or intentions. As a rational being with unique intelligence
, humans can handle the same predictions in the same rate that we can also formulate misconceptions and false beliefs after another. It comes with the understanding that another person may have a wrong idea about something.
The ability to formulate the understanding of the false beliefs others have may have been harnessed by humans starting between the ages 6 to 9. This certain level of discernment may not just be unique to human apes but also be found in our other ape cousins.
A study conducted on primates used the anticipatory looking test that is originally used for human infants to gauge their understanding of false beliefs. The primates watched an ape version of soap opera while their eye movements were tracked to see what they expect the characters would do. The primates have to be invested enough to stay watching the experimental ape video. Putting an ape-like character (actually a human dressed as an ape) recreating a social conflict kept the primate subject watching.
The false belief trial with chimpanzee Jahaga shows a human getting curious with a rock placed inside a large cage. The cage has a hole which the human uses to reach into the rock with his hands. A primate from the back of the cage grabs the rock and makes a lot of noise.
There are two boxes placed inside the cage in front of the hole. The primate in the soap opera tries to put the rock in the box to the right while the human looks on. But the human left after being warded off by the primate. The primate then transfers the rock to the box on the left but eventually taking it out altogether then the primate leaves. The human comes back, grabs the boxes and tries to get to the rock from the box which the human thought where the primate hid the rock.
This is where the most important part of the eye tracking comes in. The chimp will predict which box the human will first check, the left or the right?
The chimp knows exactly where the rock is that it has been taken away by the chimp and it is nowhere in those boxes. But the chimp also knows which box the human has watched the chimp put the rock in to. That is confirmed when the chimp's eye movement lingers at the box on the right.
This research finds that non-human apes are able to understand what is happening in another individual's mind. This will challenge the old notion that humans are the only apes capable of the theory of mind.
If apes could talk
, everyday arguments would more likely be like a congress meeting.
A mayhem of 'false beliefs'