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Researchers: Chimpanzees spontaneously take turns, maybe that explains duets

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Chimps earning apple pieces, taking turns sequencing numbers/Christopher F Martin

From ScienceDaily:

Previous studies have shown chimps working together in strictly alternating turn-taking scenarios. However, these results are the first to demonstrate that chimpanzees can cope with more complex permutations of turn-taking, with no external cues to help time their behaviour.

‘Many animals, from insects through birds to primates, take turns during certain types of communication — as do we humans during conversational exchanges. But taking repeated, coordinated turns to achieve a common goal is much less well studied outside the communication domain, despite the possibility that all such behaviours draw on the same underlying cognitive skills for turn-taking.

‘Besides turn-taking, our task may also provide insights into abilities for cognitive perspective-taking — in other words, the capacity to improve coordination by mentally putting yourself in someone else’s place. Brain studies have shown that this is a skill that musicians use while performing duets that require them to take turns. Whether our chimpanzee subjects made use of such perspective-taking capacities during solving the numerical turn-taking task is an interesting open question for future research.’ Paper. (public access) – Christopher Flynn Martin, Dora Biro, Tetsuro Matsuzawa. Chimpanzees spontaneously take turns in a shared serial ordering task. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-14393-x More.

It certainly is “an interesting open question for future research,” especially when we come to teach chimpanzees to play piano duets. Right now, it’s worth noting how little evidence is needed to convince researchers that they have demonstrated advanced chimpanzee intelligence.

If this group of “six chimpanzees in the study — three mother-and-offspring pairs –” couldn’t achieve a benchmark like that, they probably couldn’t live together for long as a troupe, never mind enter the Stone Age.

Meanwhile, we also learned recently that Leakey’s iconic homo habilis probably did not use cultural transmission (too primitive.)

Hold the the Stone Age until we agree on some standards here.

See also: Researchers: Leakey’s iconic homo habilis did not use cultural transmission, too primitive. What’s remarkable about Premo’s claim is that elsewhere we are told that even the chimps are entering the Stone Age and taking turns, etc. Potential conflict between such claims is not generally addressed because it doesn’t need to be: Driveby claims of all kinds, not examined against each other, are state of the art now.

Maybe that is why we only hear about the limitations in chimpanzee or other great ape abilities in the context of slighting the abilities of human ancestors.


Are apes entering the Stone Age?


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