Chimpanzee Phil solving a version of the labyrinth puzzle (Image: Zoological Society of London)
Read aloud Crossword puzzles, sudoku or puzzles: For many of us, tinkering and guessing are pure pleasure. We do not solve these tasks because we have to, but just because we enjoy it. That monkeys also know this pure desire to puzzle, British researchers have now observed. Chimpanzees in the zoo were so excited about a complicated labyrinth puzzle that they did not stop until they solved it, regardless of whether or not they wagered a reward in the end.

That chimpanzees can solve even complex tasks using different tools is not new: they build towers out of boxes to get hold of a banana, operate levers to open feed containers, and even learn from each other how to best treat a tasty reward. " freeing "is. But all these tasks have one thing in common: in the end there is always a reward in the form of delicious treats. They are the only ones who spur the monkeys to their highest cognitive performance - that's what they believed so far anyway. An experiment by British biologists at the Whipsnade Zoo in the south of England has now proved the wrong thing.

Plastic tubes as a labyrinth puzzle

Actually, Fay Clark and Lauren Smith of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) just wanted to try new ways of giving more variety to the six chimpanzees at the Whipsnade Zoo and how that affects their wellbeing. Instead, they bought opaque plexiglass tubes at the hardware store and crafted a labyrinth puzzle for the monkeys: putting these little sticks into holes in the tubes or taking them out, they could guide a red cube through the maze to the exit. For this puzzle, the monkeys did not get training, they just had to find out by trial and error what works and what does not.

"This task is similar to looking for honey in a tree trunk or fishing for termites in a termite mound, which chimps often do in the field, " explains Clark. The two females and four males in the enclosure of Whipsnade were given the task simultaneously in two variants: one gave the monkeys a reward in the form of nuts, when the cube had arrived at the exit, in the other there was no food or other reward except the fact that the cube had arrived at its destination and was clearly visible in the end box. If you solve the puzzle several times in succession, the dice accumulated there accordingly. display

Awesome fun at the puzzle even without reward nut

"We found that the chimpanzees were eager to complete the puzzle - whether or not they got a reward afterwards, " says Clark. The labyrinth, where there were no nuts and the success was only visible in the accumulation of red cubes, has been used even more often by the monkeys. This suggests that the monkeys felt a similar sense of satisfaction once they solved the puzzle, as did we humans after completing a brainpower.

According to the researchers, the chimpanzees solve such tasks - just like us - simply out of the desire to puzzle. They also evidently also develop the ambition to crack the task given to them and prove thereby quite considerable stamina. For many studies on the intelligence of chimpanzees, but also for zoos and wildlife parks with monkey enclosures, this could mean in the future: Just leave out the banana and give the monkeys more challenging tasks more often - this is as much fun as the crossword puzzle or sudoku.

Fay Clark and Lauren Smith (Zoological Society of London) American Journal of Primatology, doi: 10.1002 / ajp.22141 © - === Nadja Podbregar


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