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Anim Cogn. 2007 Oct;10(4):439-48. Epub 2007 Apr 11.

Chimpanzees really know what others can see in a competitive situation.

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Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103, Leipzig, Germany.


Chimpanzee's perspective-taking abilities are currently disputed. Here we show that in some food competition contexts, subordinate chimpanzees do take the visual perspective of dominant individuals, preferentially targeting a hidden piece of the food that the dominant cannot see over a piece that is visible to both individuals. However, the space where the animals compete is critical in determining whether subjects demonstrate this skill. We suggest that competition intensity, as mediated by these spatial factors, may play an important role in determining the strategy chimpanzees utilize in competitive contexts. Since some strategies may not require visual perspective taking in order to be successful, chimpanzees may not always demonstrate this skill. Differences in spatial arrangement may therefore account for the conflicting results of past studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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