"Flexible helping with understanding of
conspecifics' goals in chimpanzees"
Humans extensively help others altruistically, which plays an
important role in maintaining cooperative societies. Although some
non-human animals are also capable of helping others altruistically,
humans are considered unique in our voluntary helping and the variety of
helping behaviors we demonstrate. Many still believe that this is
because only humans can understand others' goals due to our unique
theory of mind abilities, especially shared intentionality. However, we
know little of the cognitive mechanisms underlying helping in non-human
animals, especially if and how they understand others' goals. The
present study provides the empirical evidence for flexible targeted
helping pending on conspecifics' needs in chimpanzees. The subjects of
this study selected an appropriate tool from a random set of seven
objects to transfer to a conspecific partner confronted with differing
tool-use situations, indicating that they had an understanding of what
their partner needed. This targeted helping, i.e. selecting the
appropriate tool to transfer, was observed only when the helpers could
visually assess their partner's situation. If
visual access was obstructed, the chimpanzees still tried to help their
partner upon request, but failed to select and donate the appropriate
tool needed by their partner. These results suggest that the limitation
in chimpanzees' voluntary helping is not solely due to their failure
in understanding others' goals. Chimpanzees can understand
conspecifics' goals and demonstrate cognitively advanced targeted
helping as long as they are able to visually evaluate their conspecifics'
predicament. Yet, they will seldom help others without direct request
video "Can see" video1.wmv
Appropriate first tool offer in the "can see" condition.
Upon Pan's (right) request, Pal transferred a straw, with which Pan
succeeded in obtaining the juice.
video "Cannot see" video2.wmv
Inappropriate first tool offer in the °»cannot see°… condition.
Cleo (left) first offered a straw to Chloe. As Chloe continued
requesting, Cleo transferred a hose, a brush, and finally a stick, which
Chloe actually required.
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