Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Problem Solving

Primate behavior research that assesses animal intelligence; in problem solving studies an animal is presented with a new situation which it must analyze and adapt to. A classic example is an orangutan that used a rope to reach the key to its cage; when the keepers tied knots in the rope to make it too short to reach the key, the ape untied the knots. Primates, among animals, excel at problem solving; some researchers refer to this as reasoning, but see Morgan’s canon. In natural conditions such abilities led to tool use among our ancestors.

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