Six chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) were presented with pairs of color photographic images of 5 different categories of animals (cat, chimp, gorilla, tiger, fish). The subjects responded to each pair using symbols for "same" and "different." Both within- and between-category discriminations were tested, and all chimpanzees classified the image pairs in accordance with the 5 experimenter-defined categories under conditions of nondifferential reinforcement. Although previous studies have demonstrated identification or discrimination of natural categories by nonhuman animals, subjects were typically differentially reinforced for their responses. The present findings demonstrate that chimpanzees can classify natural objects spontaneously and that such classifications may be similar to those that would be observed in human subjects.
Brown, D. A., & Boysen, S. T. (2000). Spontaneous discrimination of natural stimuli by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 114(4), 392.