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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How does the Chimpanzee Mind Represent its Cultures?


Tools are peculiar parts of our environment and tool manufacture remains one of the most prodigious achievements of humankind over the last million years. Chimpanzees, along with other non-primate species, also use and sometimes manufacture tools. In my research, I have investigated the cognitive, ecological, social and emotional factors influencing tool use in wild and captive apes, with a focus on Ugandan chimpanzees. In parallel, I have researched cognitive aspects of the evolution of emotional and intentional communication by studying primate, particularly great ape, vocalizations. Finally, in more recent years, I have investigated the same topics in children, to investigate the possible homologies with humans and our shared ancestry and specificities. My goal is to understand the evolutionary pressures that launched humans on the particular evolutionary pathway that have allowed them to become the ultimate culture-bearers. I am also interested in how other species, in turn, see the world. The research program I develop integrates these interests in a comparative, ecological, cognitive and socio-emotional approach to cultural knowledge in great apes and humans.

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