Orangutans Can Predict Their Cocktail Preferences, Just Like Humans

Does this guy look like he needs a drink? Image: Flickr/Njambi Ndiba
Does this guy look like he needs a drink? Image: Flickr/Njambi Ndiba
Humans love to believe that we’re unique. Yet every year, it seems like a host of abilities once thought to be possessed solely by people are found in other species. Take the very important ability to predict what a cocktail might taste like, for example.

By Louise Matsakis | MOTHERBOARD

By providing an orangutan named Naong with his own personal (non-alcoholic) cocktail bar at Furuvik Zoo in Sweden, researchers discovered that he possessed a type of predictive thought once believed to be exclusive to humans. Naong was given apple cider vinegar and three different kinds of fruit juices: cherry, rhubarb, and lemon.

He was quickly able to learn and remember the distinct flavor of each beverage. What was most surprising however, is that Naong could also predict whether he would like the taste of combinations he hadn’t already tried.

In other words, Naong appeared to be capable of “affective forecasting,” or the ability to predict the outcome of never-before-experienced situations by recombining parts of past situations. It was previously believed that animals were only capable of predicting the outcome of events they had already directly experienced.

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