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Journal Article

Identifying animal complex cognition requires natural complexity


Boesch,  Christophe       
Chimpanzees, Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Boesch, C. (2021). Identifying animal complex cognition requires natural complexity. iScience, 24(3): 102195. doi:10.1016/j.isci.2021.102195.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-08ED-5
The search for human cognitive uniqueness often relied on low ecological tests with subjects experiencing unnatural ontogeny. Recently, neuroscience demonstrated the significance of a rich environment on the development of brain structures and cognitive abilities. This stresses the importance to consider the prior knowledge that subjects bring in any experiment. Second, recent developments in multivariate statistics control precisely for a number of factors and their interactions. Making controls in natural observations equivalent and sometimes superior to captive experimental studies without the drawbacks of the latter methods. Thus, we can now investigate complex cognition by accounting for many different factors, as required when solving tasks in nature. Combining both progresses allow us to move towards an “experience-specific cognition”, recognizing that cognition vary extensively in nature as individuals adapt to the precise challenges they experience in life. Such cognitive specialization makes cross-species comparisons more complex, while potentially identifying human cognitive uniqueness.