How Our Human Superiority Complex Has Clouded Research on Ape Social Intelligence

How Our Human Superiority Complex Has Clouded Research on Ape Social Intelligence

Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis

Since the beginning of the 21st century, social intelligence in apes has been studied in comparison to humans. Although humans share 98% of their DNA with apes like chimps and bonobos, this study pinpoints the exact spot at which humans have formed an invalid opinion of their own intelligence: their faulty variables. Up until now, humans have thought of their capacity for intelligence as a static, inherent quality but “we now know that intellectual performances in our species is a function of gene-environment interactions: impoverished environments have systematically deleterious effects on mental development”. Social intelligence studies have been flawed in their approach by comparing humans from one singular cultural context such as Western Europe, to captive apes who have spent their entire lives in a setting removed from that environment. A clear distinction of our capacity for intelligence versus an ape’s cannot be codified when both variables are not exposed to the same circumstantial components. “Thus, to claim a ‘species difference’ in social cognition between apes and humans, at our present state of knowledge, is to promulgate the same kinds of prejudices that hereditarians evinced in the early history of biometric approaches to the study of intelligence– all group differences were taken to be evidence for innate, primary differences in abilities between different groups of humans, and environmental influences on mental development were routinely ignored.”

Read the full article here: The Mismeasure of Ape Social Cognition_Leavens, Bard, and Hopkins