Apes communicate about absent and displaced objects: methodology matters

Heidi Lyn, Jamie L. Russell, David A. Leavens, Kim A. Bard, Sarah T. Boysen, Jennifer A. Schaeffer, William D. Hopkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Displaced reference is the ability to refer to an item that has been moved (displaced) in space and/or time, and has been called one of the true hallmarks of referential communication. Several studies suggest that nonhuman primates have this capability, but a recent experiment concluded that in a specific situation (absent entities) human infants display displaced reference but chimpanzees do not. Here we show that chimpanzees and bonobos of diverse rearing histories are capable of displaced reference to absent and displaced objects. It is likely that some of the conflicting findings from animal cognition studies are due to relatively minor methodological differences, but are compounded by interpretation errors. Comparative studies are of great importance in elucidating the evolution of human cognition, however, greater care must be taken with methodology and interpretation for these studies to accurately reflect species differences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-94
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Apes communicate about absent and displaced objects: methodology matters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this