How comparative psychology can shed light on human evolution: Response to Beran et al.’s discussion of “Cognitive capacities for cooking in chimpanzees”

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How comparative psychology can shed light on human evolution: Response to Beran et al.’s discussion of “Cognitive capacities for cooking in chimpanzees”

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Title: How comparative psychology can shed light on human evolution: Response to Beran et al.’s discussion of “Cognitive capacities for cooking in chimpanzees”
Author: Rosati, Alexandra Grace Elliott; Warneken, Felix

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Citation: Rosati, Alexandra G., and Felix Warneken. 2016. “How Comparative Psychology Can Shed Light on Human Evolution: Response to Beran et Al.’s Discussion of ‘Cognitive Capacities for Cooking in Chimpanzees.’” Learning & Behavior 44 (2) (March 23): 109–115. doi:10.3758/s13420-016-0220-7.
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Abstract: We recently reported a study (Warneken & Rosati Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 282, 20150229, 2015) examining whether chimpanzees possess several cognitive capacities that are critical to engage in cooking. In a subsequent commentary, Beran, Hopper, de Waal, Sayers, and Brosnan Learning & Behavior (2015) asserted that our paper has several flaws. Their commentary (1) critiques some aspects of our methodology and argues that our work does not constitute evidence that chimpanzees can actually cook; (2) claims that these results are old news, as previous work had already demonstrated that chimpanzees possess most or all of these capacities; and, finally, (3) argues that comparative psychological studies of chimpanzees cannot adequately address questions about human evolution, anyway. However, their critique of the premise of our study simply reiterates several points we made in the original paper. To quote ourselves: “As chimpanzees neither control fire nor cook food in their natural behavior, these experiments therefore focus not on whether chimpanzees can actually cook food, but rather whether they can apply their cognitive skills to novel problems that emulate cooking” (Warneken & Rosati Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 282, 20150229, 2015, p. 2). Furthermore, the methodological issues they raise are standard points about psychological research with animals—many of which were addressed synthetically across our 9 experiments, or else are orthogonal to our claims. Finally, we argue that comparative studies of extant apes (and other nonhuman species) are a powerful and indispensable method for understanding human cognitive evolution.
Published Version: doi:10.3758/s13420-016-0220-7
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#OAP
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33973835
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