Innovative problem solving in great apes: the role of visual feedback in the floating peanut task

Sonja J. Ebel, Martin Schmelz, Esther Herrmann, Josep Call

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Nonhuman great apes show remarkable behavioural flexibility. Some individuals are even able to use water as a tool: They spit water into a vertical tube to make a peanut float upwards until it comes into reach (floating peanut task; FPT). In the current study, we used the FPT to investigate how visual feedback, an end-state demonstration and a social demonstration affect task performance in nonhuman great apes in three experiments. Our results indicate that apes who had acquired the solution with a clear tube maintained it with an opaque one. However, apes starting with an opaque tube failed to solve the task. Additionally, facing the peanut floating on a water-filled tube (i.e., an end-state demonstration) promoted success independent on the availability of visual feedback. Moreover, experiencing how water was poured into the tube either by a human demonstrator or by a water tap that had been opened either by the ape or a human did not seem to be of further assistance. First, this study suggests that great apes require visual feedback for solving the FPT, which is no longer required after the initial acquisition. Second, some subjects benefit from encountering the end-state, a finding corroborating previous studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-805
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number5
Early online date5 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


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