Article Review on Lonsdorf Chimpanzees Differences in Learning

Article Review: Lonsdorf Chimpanzees Differences in Learning

This article review is based on the provisions provided by Browne and Kelly (1997). It establishes the conclusion, gives the reasons for the claim, and outlines both the descriptive and prescriptive assumptions.

Issue and conclusion

In the research carried out by Lonsdorf, Eberly, and Pusey (2004), the researcher concludes that there is a difference between the proficiency of male and female offsprings in using tools to fish for termites. The study also concluded that female offsprings are more attached to their mothers as compared to their male counterparts. The conclusion was made after a coherent longitudinal field study, which took the team four years.


According to Browne and Kelly (1997), a conclusion in an argument must be supported by reasons. While such reasons may not mean that the conclusion or the issue is factual, they add more strength to it. To arrive at the above judgment, the team of researchers had observed 14 young chimpanzees, which were 11 years and below. The main objective was to observe how the offsprings, which from the article is not clear, how many were male or females, fished for termites from the termite mounds.  They found out that the females started to fish for termites with tools crafted from vegetation, at a younger age than the males.  To be specific, by the time the female chimpanzee had reached the age of 27 months, they could use tools to reach out to the termite mounds (Lonsdorf et al, 2004).

On the other hand, males took a little bit longer, to hunt for termites. The researchers point out that the male offsprings only liked to hang around the termite mounds. All the same, it takes them twice as long as their female counterparts to learn the tricks of getting termites from the mounds. What could be the reason for this delay? Chimpanzees as other animals learn their first tricks from their mothers. From the collected video tapes, it was clear that the males did not tag along with their mothers (Lonsdorf et al, 2004).

If the male offsprings were closer to their mothers as their female siblings, they may have been in a better position to learn fast how to hunt for termites from the mounds.  This further stamps the conclusion, which claims that there is a significant difference in skills of fetching termites from their moulds (Lonsdorf et al, 2004).


Ambiguity can make certain content to be understood differently by the reader (Browne and Kelly, 1997). In the article about Chimpanzees learning, the writer does not elaborate on the sample population, which is important in a research article. They talk of 14 offsprings but it is not clear of the number of males and females. This makes it hard for the reader to know whether the results are valid or not.

Another case of ambiguity is brought about, when they correlate the sex differences in chimpanzees in learning how to use tools to humans. The researcher goes further to say that since the chimpanzees are believed to be from the same ancestry with humans, they may share some behaviors (Lonsdorf et al, 2004). Although this might have some truth, it does not have evidence, to back up the conclusion.


Value Assumptions

Assumption 1

The research team as presented earlier in the ambiguity section tries to make their conclusion acceptable to the readers. They do this, by concluding that the differences in learning in chimpanzees are similar to those in human children, since they share ancestry. This seems to have been drawn from the evolution theory. The lead author being an ecologist, it becomes clear why they subscribe to the theory.  That is why; they do not mind placing it in this context (Lonsdorf et al, 2004).

Assumption 2

Being a scientist in ecology, the author also attempts to make correlations with previous studies. While the team does not encounter active teaching of the female or male offspring by the Chimpanzee mother, they assume that the mothers have a social relationship with their offsprings. That they relate with both genders with the same level of tolerance. The author takes the observation that was made in Tai forest, where the mother carried out nut cracking for the offsprings, as the basis for their claim. However, this may not explain why the females are closer to their mothers than the males (Lonsdorf et al, 2004).

Descriptive assumptions

Descriptive assumptions, describe what the situation is, was or is to become (Browne and Kelly, 1997). To make their claim stand, the research team did make a few descriptive assumptions including:


Assumption 1

First, they assume that the offsprings will learn how to use tools to hunt for termites, differently due to their different genders.   This was their hypothesis. From the study, they get that the females learn faster than their male counterparts do (Lonsdorf et al, 2004). This is a way does show that there are discrepancies in the learning of the chimpanzees.

Assumption 2

The researchers assume that any other community, throughout the project, will not influence the 14 animals.  This helps them to base their results on the interactions between mother and the offsprings.  From the findings, males tend to stay aloof from their mothers and hence, they delayed in learning the skills of using tools to remove termites from their moulds. On the other hand, females watched closely as their mothers fished for the termites; no wonder their fast learning capabilities (Lonsdorf et al, 2004).


The assumptions presented did support the claim but the one on the ancestry of humans, diluted the conclusion, since there is no proof, which can make it hold. Overall, the conclusion has been well backed up by the assumptions especially the descriptive ones.



Browne, N. and Kelly, S. (1997). Asking the right questions: A guide to critical thinking. London: Pearson. Available from:

Lonsdorf, E.V., Eberly, L.E. and Pusey, A.E. (2004).  Sex differences in learning in Chimpanzees . Vol. 428, p.715. Available at: