Success and Understanding in Cognitive Tasks: A Comparison Between Cebus apella and Pan troglodytes

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The recent boom in cognitive studies on chimpanzees and capuchins allows an analysis of the cognitive processes and behavioral tendencies underlying their performances when faced with a variety of problems. In the laboratory, but less so in nature, Cebus and Pan show remarkable convergence in their overall success in solving problems involving the use of tools and cooperation. Behavioral ingredients such as explorative tendencies, manipulative skills, social tolerance, and cognitive capacities contribute to their success. However, in experiments in which carefully controlled conditions were implemented, e.g., cooperation and tool-using tasks, differences between the two taxa emerged in the role played by such ingredients in fostering success. Although it is difficult to establish the nature of these differences, a profitable way to look at them is from outside: from the point of view of what children do when tested in similar tasks. If we consider the ways in which children experience or achieve initial success and then become fully proficient in solving similar tasks, we can appreciate the different recipes for success that Pan and Cebus present.

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