Apes show complex cognitive skills watching ‘King Kong’ videos
Turns out they’re not investigating whether the great apes have feelings about movies, which is a shame. I bet they’d have some interesting thoughts about how the Dino De Laurentiis version slapped the original premise with a Seventies Movies stick by making sure we knew everyone in the movie, including the natives on Skull Island, ended up depressingly worse off. Instead:
As individual apes were shown videos featuring a human actor and a costumed ape-like King Kong character, researchers tracked their eye movements. In the video, the human watches King Kong hide an object in one of two boxes. When the person leaves, King Kong moves the object to a new location.
When the person returns to find the object, the apes looked intently at the original spot in anticipation of the person searching there. Even though the apes knew the object had been moved, they understood that the human thought it was still there, said study co-leader Fumihiro Kano, a comparative psychologist at Kyoto University in Japan.
This is an important result for studying the theory of mind, because now we can know that our fellow primates can tell when someone’s being fooled. I bet it won’t be long before we have great apes who can watch three-camera sitcoms or beer advertisements for us. Then we just have to find the ones who want to.
Still, I worry that over on Ape Twitter there’s a bunch of Ape Tweetstorms where they’re all about how hilariously fake the King Kong costume are. I bet the researchers didn’t include that in their report. It would look bad to the funding committee that for all they spent on the outfit the apes still weren’t buying it. Or worse if they spent so much on the ape costumes that the actual apes were buying it.