The Atlantic

Apes Might Know That You Don’t Know What They Know

The latest volley in a decades-long debate about apes’ theory of mind involved one scientist dressing up as King Kong and stealing from his colleague.
Source: Arterra / Universal Images Group / Getty

In the pursuit of new knowledge, some scientists explore other worlds, discover new species, and develop cures for disease. Others film themselves being robbed by a colleague in a King Kong suit, to address a debate that’s been raging for more than 40 years.

, Satoshi Hirata from Kyoto University would from his uncostumed colleague, Fumihiro Kano, and hide it under one of two boxes, all while Kano watched in mock indignation. Then, after Kano ducked behind a door, “Kong” would surreptitiously move the stolen stone to the second box. The duo filmed these shenanigans and then showed the videos to several chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans. They wanted to know how what the apes made of the scene. Specifically, when Kano returned and began looking for his stone, which box did the

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