Understanding others’ preferences: A comparison across primate species and human societies

Juliane Kaminski, Roman Stengelin, Antje Girndt, Daniel Haun, Katja Liebal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Downloads (Pure)


We investigated children’s and non-human great apes’ ability to anticipate others’ choices from their evident food preferences—regardless of whether these preferences deviate or align with one’s own. We assessed children from three culturally-diverse societies (Namibia, Germany, and Samoa; N = 71; age range = 5–11) and four non-human great ape species (chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus), gorillas (Gorilla gorilla), and orangutans (Pongo abelii); N = 25; age range = 7–29) regarding their choices in a dyadic food-retrieval task. Across conditions, participants’ preferences were either aligned (same preference condition) or opposed (opposite preference condition) to those of their competitors. Children across societies altered their choices based on their competitor’s preferences, indicating a cross-culturally recurrent capacity to anticipate others’ choices relying on preferences-based inferences. In contrast to human children, all non-human great apes chose according to their own preferences but independent of those of their competitors. In sum, these results suggest that the tendency to anticipate others’ choices based on their food preferences is cross-culturally robust and, among the great apes, most likely specific to humans.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0295221
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2024

Cite this