Chimps Love A Good Brain Teaser
February 25, 2013

Even Without Rewards Chimps Enjoy Puzzle Solving Activities

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Apparently humans aren´t the only ones who enjoy a brain teaser every now and again, as newly published research has revealed solving puzzles also seems to be a source of gratification for chimpanzees.

The study, which was published by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and appears in the American Journal of Primatology, demonstrated six chimpanzees that were given a challenge which involved moving objects through a maze of pipes seemed to enjoy the experience, even if they did not receive a reward for their efforts, reported Richard Gray, Science Correspondent with The Telegraph.

According to the Press Trust of India, the ZSL researchers created the challenge at the Whipsnade Zoo - Bedfordshire using plumbing pipes purchased at a local home improvement store.

The task involved placing sticks into holes in the pipes to change the direction of either red dice or Brazil nuts. With the dice, the goal was to move them into an exit chamber, but with the nuts, that chamber had been removed so they would fall out of the maze and become a tasty snack to reward the chimps for their work.

"We noticed that the chimps were keen to complete the puzzle regardless of whether or not they received a food reward,” Fay Clark, a researcher with the Zoological Society, said Saturday in a statement. “This strongly suggests they get similar feelings of satisfaction to humans who often complete brain games for a feel-good reward.”

The animals were not trained about how to operate the device before being asked to complete the tasks, the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) explained. The researchers also went on to create more challenging versions of the maze, adding additional pipes and making it so the chimps could not see which object it contained.

In all, the researchers estimate the challenge cost approximately £40, or just under $61 US, to make. A family of two female chimps and four males — three of which were brothers — were selected to participate in the problem solving exercise, according to ZSL officials.

“The chimps took part in the cognitive challenge as part of their normal daily routine and doing the brain teaser was completely voluntary,” they said. “This study suggests that like humans, chimpanzees are motivated to solve a puzzle when there is no food reward. They do so for the sake of the challenge itself. It also suggests that chimpanzee cognition can be measured on social groups under more naturalistic conditions.”