Chimpanzees may recognize motives and goals, but may not reckon on them.

Josep Call, Keith Jensen

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Psychological states play a fundamental role in mediating human social interactions. We interpret identical actions and outcomes in radically different ways depending on the motives and intentions underlying them. Moreover, we take reckoning of ourselves stacked up against others, and ideally make moral decisions with others in mind. Recently, evidence has been accumulating suggesting that our closest relatives are also sensitive to the motives of others and can distinguish intentional from accidental actions. These results suggest that chimpanzees interpret the actions of others from a psychological perspective, not just a behavioural perspective. However, based on recent studies, it is not clear whether chimpanzees have any regard for others, calling into the question the point at which fairness and other-regard were used as building blocks for full-fledged human morality.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationNovartis Foundation symposium|Novartis Found. Symp.
    Place of PublicationChichester, UK
    PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Ltd
    Number of pages165
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

    Publication series

    NameNovartis Foundation Symposia
    PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons


    • psychological states in human social interactions
    • intention reading in apes
    • understanding intentional action in others
    • human attribution & moral judgment
    • moral judgments & actions in non-human animals


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