Clare Fellow, Professor Nicola Clayton is the senior author of a recent study from Cambridge's Department of Psychology involving monkeys and magic.
Psychologists used a sleight-of-hand trick called the French drop, in which an object appears to vanish when a spectator assumes it is taken from one hand by the hidden thumb of the other hand.
The study, carried out at the University of Cambridge’s Comparative Cognition Lab, found that monkeys lacking opposable thumbs did not fall for the assumption – staying wise to the whereabouts of tasty treats a magician tried to make disappear.
“There is increasing evidence that the same parts of the nervous system used when we perform an action are also activated when we watch that action performed by others,” said Prof Nicola Clayton.
“It’s about the embodiment of knowledge. How one’s fingers and thumbs move helps to shape the way we think, and the assumptions we make about the world – as well as what others might see, remember and anticipate, based on their expectations.”
“Our work raises the intriguing possibility that an individual’s inherent physical capability heavily influences their perception, their memory of what they think they saw, and their ability to predict manual movements of those around them.”