Vol 7, Issue 3, August 2020

Mothers, Environment, and Ontogeny Affect Cognition


Boesch, C. (2020). Mothers, environment, and ontogeny affect cognition. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 7(3), 474-489. doi: https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


The book “Folk Physics for Apes” remains a fascinating book about the way one captive peer-group of chimpanzees understand the world in which they grew. However, the very special living conditions these seven individuals faced prevent any generalizations to the species level. Moreover, numerous recent studies have revolutionized our understanding of brain development and cognitive abilities in documenting much higher brain plasticity and important variations in the level of cognitive abilities in many species, including humans. Environmental enrichment and physical practice can lead to impressive improvements in the performance of many different cognitive abilities during the lifetime and these changes are observed within relative short periods of time and proportional to the environmental improvements or the level of physical practices. This much higher plasticity of cognitive abilities requires a new way of thinking in comparative cognitive studies incorporating a multi-conditions multi-populations perspective before reaching conclusions that could be generalized to the species level. In that sense, “Folk Physics for Apes” is only one of the many pieces needed before we can draw conclusions about potential differences between chimpanzees and humans.


Chimpanzee, Cognition, Mother, Environment, Ontogeny