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Color discrimination and color preferences in Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

  • Camille H. M. PeneEmail author
  • Akiho Muramatsu
  • Tetsuro Matsuzawa
Original Article


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have been known for a long time to have color vision identical to humans (Grether in J Comp Psychol 29(2):167–177, 1940b; Jacobs et al. in Vis Res 36(16):2587–2594, 1996). With this study, we wonder if chimpanzees, as humans, show preferences for some colors rather than others. During a first range of experiments, we test their ability to discriminate all the colors from our set, through easy matching-to-sample tasks. The seven chimpanzees that participate in this first test show the results we can expect from chimpanzees with normal color vision. Then, six of them are tested for preferences. This range of experiments results in the existence of consistent tendencies across all the trials and situations, as chimpanzees would mostly first choose some particular colors, and conversely choose last different colors. Although the results for color discrimination are identical for all the seven chimpanzees, preference tests demonstrate four different tendencies. This study is the first step toward broader experiments, including more chimpanzee subjects, but also different species, with the only requirement of being trained to the basic use of a touch panel interface.


Chimpanzees Pan troglodytes Color perception Color preference Touch panel 





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We thank S. Hirata, M. Tomonaga, I. Adachi, M. Hayashi for their help and guidance in this study development. We thank PRI staff for their support and work in the experiments and everyday care of the chimpanzees. This study was financially supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from JSPS #24000001, #16H06283 and LGP-U04 to T. Matsuzawa and Core-to-Core Program A. Advanced Research Networks “Comparative Cognitive Science Network”

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

The research proposal for the project “Studies on sequential learning, memory, and language comprehension in chimpanzees” was approved by the Animal Welfare and Animal Care Committee of Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University (Nos. 2015-063). All procedures adhered to the Japanese Act on the Welfare and Management of Animals.

Supplementary material

10329_2020_790_MOESM1_ESM.wmv (4.7 mb)
Supplementary file1 (WMV 4786 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Veterinary School of ToulouseToulouseFrance
  2. 2.Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityInuyamaJapan

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