Artifact and Artifact Categorization: Comparing Humans and Capuchin Monkeys


We aim to show that far-related primates like humans and the capuchin monkeys show interesting correspondences in terms of artifact characterization and categorization. We investigate this issue by using a philosophically-inspired definition of physical artifact which, developed for human artifacts, turns out to be applicable for cross-species comparison. In this approach an artifact is created when an entity is intentionally selected and some capacities attributed to it (often characterizing a purpose). Behavioral studies suggest that this notion of artifact is not specific to the human kind. On the basis of the results of a series of field observations and experiments on wild capuchin monkeys that routinely use stone hammers and anvils, we show that the notions of intentional selection and attributed capacity appear to be at play in capuchins as well. The study also suggests that functional criteria and contextualization play a fundamental role in terms of artifact recognition and categorization in nonhuman primates. S. Borgo (*) : L. Vieu LOA-ISTC-CNR, Trento, Italy e-mail: N. Spagnoletti PSE-IP-University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil e-mail: N. Spagnoletti : E. Visalberghi UCP-ISTC-CNR, Rome, Italy E. Visalberghi e-mail: L. Vieu IRIT-CNRS, Toulouse, France e-mail:

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Borgo2017ArtifactAA, title={Artifact and Artifact Categorization: Comparing Humans and Capuchin Monkeys}, author={Stefano Borgo and Noemi Spagnoletti and Laure Vieu and Elisabetta Visalberghi}, year={2017} }