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The strategies used by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and children (Homo sapiens) to solve a simple coordination problem


Tomasello,  Michael
Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Duguid, S., Wyman, E., Grueneisen, S., & Tomasello, M. (2020). The strategies used by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and children (Homo sapiens) to solve a simple coordination problem. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 134(4), 401-411. doi:10.1037/com0000220.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-7993-C
One of the challenges of collaboration is to coordinate decisions with others, and recent theories have proposed that humans, in particular, evolved skills to address this challenge. To test this hypothesis, we compared the coordination abilities of 4-year-old children and chimpanzees with a simple coordination problem. To retrieve a reward from a “puzzle box,” pairs of individuals were simply required to choose the same 1 of 4 options. If successful, they each received the same reward, so there were no conflicts of interest. Individuals were paired with multiple partners over time. Both species were able to coordinate, but there were marked differences in the way they did so. Children were able to coordinate quickly and flexibly, adjusting easily to new partners, suggesting an understanding of the coordination process. In contrast, chimpanzees took time to converge on a single solution with each new partner, with no gains across partners, suggesting that their coordination was based only on repeating successful past choices. Together, these results support the hypothesis that humans have evolved unique skills for coordinating decisions and actions with others in the pursuit of common interests. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)