Can chimps, not only humans, ‘think about thinking’?

‘Humans’ closest animal relatives, chimpanzees, have the ability to “think about thinking” — what is called “metacognition,” according to new research by scientists at Georgia State University and the University at Buffalo.

Michael J. Beran and Bonnie M. Perdue of the Georgia State Language Research Center (LRC) and J. David Smith of the University at Buffalo conducted the research, published in the journal Psychological Science of the Association for Psychological Science.

“The demonstration of metacognition in nonhuman primates has important implications regarding the emergence of self-reflective mind during humans’ cognitive evolution,” the research team noted.

Metacognition is the ability to recognize one’s own cognitive states. For example, a game show contestant must make the decision to “phone a friend” or risk it all, dependent on how confident he or she is in knowing the answer.’ (Science Daily).

The report seems to indicate that the chimps can distinguish what they do and do not know, as evidenced by the use of that recognition as the basis for action. I agree that this would fit the bill for being ‘metacognition’ if it were true, but I am not sure the study demonstrates that.

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