Culture Prefigures Cognition in Pan/Homo Bonobos

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THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 2171-679X, Vol: 20, Issue: 3, Page: 311-328

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Savage-Rumbaugh, Sue; Fields, William M. ; Segerdahl, Par; Rumbaugh, Duane
Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del País Vasco
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article description
This article questions traditional experimental approaches to the study of primate cognition. Because 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 describe 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.