These days, cooking dinner requires no more thought than turning a knob on a stovetop, but for early humans the notion that, simply by applying heat or fire, foods could be transformed into something both tastier and easier to digest demanded huge cognitive insight, insight often believed to be limited to humans. New evidence, however, suggests that, when it comes to cooking, humans may need to make more room at the table. A new study, co-authored by Dr. Felix Warneken, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences, and Dr. Alexandra Rosati, currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Psychology Department at Yale University who will join the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology as an Assistant Professor at Harvard this summer, suggests that humans' cognitive capacity for cooking is also shared by chimpanzees. This includes a preference for cooked food, the ability to understand the transformation of raw food into cooked food, and even the ability to save and transport food over distances for the purposes of cooking. The findings suggest that those abilities emerged early in human evolution, and that aside from control of fire, chimps may possess all the requisite cognitive skills to engage in cooking. The study was published online on June 3, 2015 in an open-access article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The article is titled “Cognitive Capacities for Cooking in Chimpanzees.” "It is an important question when cooking emerged in human evolution," Dr. Warneken said. "We thought one way to get at this question is to investigate whether chimpanzees, in principle, have the critical cognitive capacities for cooking.
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