Tracking and inferring spatial rotation by children and great apes

S. Barth-Okamoto*, J. Call

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Finding hidden objects in space is a fundamental ability that has received considerable research attention from both a developmental and a comparative perspective. Tracking the rotational displacements of containers and hidden objects is a particularly challenging task. This study investigated the ability of 3-, 5-, 7-, and 9-year-old children and great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) to (a) visually track rotational displacements of a baited container on a platform and (b) infer its displacements by using the changes of position or orientation of 3 landmarks: an object on a container, the color of the containers, and the color of the platform on which the containers rested. Great apes and 5-year-old and older children successfully tracked visible rotations, but only children were able to infer the location of a correct cup (with the help of landmarks) after invisible rotations. The ability to use landmarks changed with age so that younger children solved this task only with the most explicit marker on the baited container, whereas older children, particularly 9-year-olds, were able to use landmark orientation to infer correct locations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1396-1408
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


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