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Apes' abilities have been unfairly measured, throwing into doubt the assumed belief that human infants are superior to adult chimpanzees, according to a new study by leaders in the field of ape cognition.
Researchers studied published work comparing human and ape social cognition and came to the conclusion the studies had got it wrong.
Surprise - Institutions - Humans - Families - Practices
They say it should come as no surprise that apes raised in institutions would not perform well compared with humans raised in western families, especially when tested with western cultural practices, for example, gestures such as pointing.
The study is by Professor Kim Bard, a Comparative Developmental Psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, Professor Bill Hopkins, at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in the USA, and lead author Dr. David Leavens, at University of Sussex.
Edition - Animal - Cognition
It is published in the current edition of Animal Cognition.
The researchers argue that it's possible that apes and humans are equally capable in some aspects of social cognition, for example, social signalling—pointing at a desired object—and scientists have misjudged their abilities because of an underlying bias and poor experimental designs.
Approach - Experiments - Results - Psychology - Fails
They also suggest that without a rigorous, scientific approach to designing experiments and interpreting results, comparative psychology fails to contribute to our understanding of human uniqueness.
Professor Bard said: "Children are taught in primary school how to design a scientific experiment so that the results can be trusted and are reliable, for example, to demonstrate that sunlight is necessary for plants to grow. If you want to know whether sunflowers or tomato plants grow faster in a classroom, therefore, you have to give them equal amounts of sunlight. A bad experiment would be to put all the tomato pots in a dark corner and all the sunflower pots near a sunlit window. You can't answer the question because the tomato and sunflower plants were treated...
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