Chimps Cry Like Children

Primate experts at UK based St. Andrews University, have found that Chimps show a high level of Theory of Mind when calling for help from their peers.

Tests were conducted on wild troops in the Budongo Forest, Uganda, for 6 months, and the results show an expansion on the use of the cries over and above the simple reflex noise thought to be used by animals, simply to attract attention for help. When no other individuals were in the field of vision, help cries were at their minimum volume and frequency. However, when other individuals were in proximity the Chimp being ‘attacked’ increased its cries, and more so the higher ranking the individual being called to.

It could be that they are wanting to falsely deceive the higher ranking chimpanzee into thinking it is really bad. – Dr Katie Slocombe, St Andrews University.

Is this to deceive the higher ranking Chimp into thinking it is worse than the reality, as they will have the power to stop the attack? Do children cry more when they have been hurt, if someone else is around? This is a classic attention seeking tactic, as used by the younger generation of our own species, and shows a complex understanding of third party relations.

Findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[15.10.07] BBC News: Chimps exaggerate calls for help


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