Theoria: An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science

Volume 20, Issue 3, Septiembre 2005

Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, William M. Fields, Pär Segerdahl, Duane Rumbaugh
Pages 311-328

Culture Prefigures Cognition in Pan/Homo Bonobos

This article questions traditional experimental approaches to the study of primate cognition. Beecuse of a widespread assumption that cognition in non-human primates is genetically encoded and “natural,” these approaches neglect how profoundly apes’ cultural rearing experiences affect test results. We deseribe how three advanced cognitive abilities - imitation, theory of mind and language - emerged in bonobos maturing in a bi-species Pan/Homo culture, and how individual rearing differences led to individual forms of these abilities. These descriptions are taken from a rich ethnographic material, and we argue for the scientific superiority of participant-based ethnographic studies of primate cognition in shared Pan/Homo cultures.