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Folk Physics for ApesThe Chimpanzee's theory of how the world works$
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Daniel Povinelli

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198572190

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198572190.001.0001

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The inverted- and broken-rake problems

The inverted- and broken-rake problems

Folk Physics for Apes

Daniel J. Povinelli

James E. Reaux

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores whether chimpanzees might exhibit a better a priori understanding of the causal aspects of tool use in a case where they only needed to attend to the interaction between the tool and the goal object, as opposed to simultaneously keeping track of the substrate upon which the tool and goal object were operating. By testing chimpanzees in this manner, researchers sought to determine which aspects of the relation between pulling on a rake and the reward's subsequent movement they understood. The results presented in the chapter both extend and temper those reported in Chapters 4 and 5 in several important ways. First, the difficulty apes experienced in learning to select the properly oriented tool (correct) over the obviously improperly oriented one (incorrect), suggests that the results of previous tests were not obtained solely because they required the chimpanzees to attend to two causal relationships simultaneously. In the tests presented in this chapter, success was possible by focusing exclusively on the connection between the manipulation of a tool and the resulting movement of the reward.

Keywords:   causal relationships, a priori undestanding, tool manipulation

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