Understanding when someone is wrong is interpreted as a clear sign of social cognition: until now it was believed to be an exclusive of man and that other primates did not have this ability. A study conducted by a team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology seems to have gathered indications of the possibility that primates have the ability to distinguish a person's beliefs, false or true: the work is published in the scientific journal PLOS One.

anthropology, primates, monkeys, anthropomorphic monkeys The midwife monkey: the assisted birth of a golden rhinopithus. | Bin Yang

The scientists subjected 34 primates to a test developed for children one and a half years old. In the experiment, an individual had to place an object inside a box of choice between two.

Immediately after, an accomplice moved the object to the other box. Later the person would have to open the first box to retrieve the item.

In the first variable the individual was present in the room while the object was moved by the accomplice while, in the second, it was brought out for the time necessary for the movement. In both conditions the individual however opened the box chosen at the beginning, whether he had observed the movement or not.

It is not the first research that explores this theme: see
What's on our mind? A monkey understands it

The researchers found that, like children, primates preferred to help the person when, not having witnessed the movement of the box, he was acting incorrectly based on a false belief. This is an important clue that suggests that even primates are able to grasp the "conviction" that a person has about the reality that surrounds it immediately. The study shows for the first time how primates present the ability to understand the intentions of others based on more complex and subtle social interactions than imagined.