Do Chimpanzees Seek Explanations? Preliminary Comparative Investigations,
Povinelli (Daniel) & Dunphy-Lelii (Sarah)
Source: Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2001, 55:2, 187-195
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. During the past decade, considerable effort has been devoted to understanding whether chimpanzees reason about unobservable variables as explanations for observable events.
    1. With respect to physical causality1, these investigations have explored chimpanzees’ understanding of gravity, force, mass, shape, and so on.
    2. With respect to social causality2, this research has focused on the question of whether they reason about mental states such as emotions, desires, and beliefs.
  2. In the studies reported here, we explored whether the chimpanzee’s natural motivation for object exploration is modulated by a cognitive system that seeks explanations for unexpected events.
  3. We confronted both chimpanzees and young children with simple tasks which occasionally could not be made to work. We coded their reactions to determine if they appeared to be searching for an apparent cause (or explanation) of the task failure.
  4. The results of these preliminary studies point to both similarities and differences in how young children and chimpanzees react to such circumstances.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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