There is considerable interest in comparative research on different species’ abilities to respond to human communicative cues such as gaze and pointing. It has been reported that some canines perform significantly better than monkeys and apes on tasks requiring the comprehension of either declarative or imperative pointing and these differences have been attributed to domestication in dogs. Here we tested a sample of chimpanzees on a task requiring comprehension of an imperative request and show that, though there are considerable individual differences, the performance by the apes rival those reported in pet dogs. We suggest that small differences in methodology can have a pronounced influence on performance on these types of tasks. We further suggest that basic differences in subject sampling, subject recruitment and rearing experiences have resulted in a skewed representation of canine abilities compared to those of monkeys and apes.
Hopkins WD, Russell J, McIntyre J, Leavens DA (2013) Are Chimpanzees Really So Poor at Understanding Imperative Pointing? Some New Data and an Alternative View of Canine and Ape Social Cognition. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79338. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0079338
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