Like humans great apes also use empathy to anticipate others' actions, study claims

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It is a known fact that humans possess the ability to step into someone else's shoes to understand or anticipate their actions. The theory of mind is essential for human social interactions in our everyday life helping us to analyse, judge and infer the behaviour of others. However, a recent study shows that possibly we share this ability with other primates as well.

The new study provides some evidence stating that just like humans; apes too have the ability to anticipate the actions of others based on their own experiences.

In the recent study published in PNAS, the researchers from Kyoto University in Japan and the University of St Andrews in UK combined the classic animal psychology experiments to find out if apes can predict the actions of a human by anticipating their thoughts.

The researchers implemented a version of the "goggles" test. Through that test, the researchers tried to find out whether in the absence of any additional behavioural cues animals can use their own experience to anticipate the actions of another agent.

In the study, researchers mentioned that they have incorporated this paradigm into "an established anticipatory-looking false-belief test for great apes. In a between-subjects design, apes experienced a novel barrier as either translucent or opaque, although both looked identical from afar."

In further addition, the team of researchers clearly stated that "While being eye tracked, all apes then watched a video in which an actor saw an object hidden under 1 of 2 identical boxes. The actor then scuttled behind the novel barrier, at which point the object was relocated and then removed."

It was found that only apes, who have experienced the barrier as visually opaque, anticipated that the actor will be searching for the object in the previous location.

The study concluded that "Great apes, therefore, appeared to attribute differential visual access based specifically on their own past perceptual experience to anticipate an agent's actions in a false-belief test."