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Environmental influences on joint attention in great apes: implications for human cognition

By David Leavens and Kim A Bard


In humans, cultural differences in advanced social cognition have been well demonstrated. In tasks pertaining to theory of mind, for instance, individuals pass standard assessments of false-belief understanding at substantially different ages in different cultural environments. Less well-studied are more basic sociocognitive capacities, such as joint attention, which are held by many to constitute the foundational skill set for advanced sociocognitive reasoning. Here, we review the striking group differences in joint attention displayed by great apes as a consequence of being raised in different cultural environments, including wild habitats, institutional settings such as zoos and biomedical research centers, and home-rearing or language-training settings. Like humans, apes develop tactics for joint attention that are adaptive to the particular environments of their early rearing experiences. Great apes serve as animal models for environmental influences on sociocognitive capacities in our own species

Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1891/1945-8959.10.1.9
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