Université de Strasbourg

Tetsuro Matsuzawa

Origin of the human mind viewed from the study of chimpanzees

Chimpanzee with screen

Wednesday 30 November 2016, 15:30-17:00
ISIS Auditorium, University of Strasbourg

By Tetsuro Matsuzawa
Distinguished Professor
Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study

Origin of the human mind viewed from the study of chimpanzees

What is uniquely human? Where did we come from? To answer to those questions Professor Matsuzawa has compared cognitive development in humans with that of chimpanzees. The laboratory study is known as Ai project since 1977, and the field study has been carried out in Bossou-Nimba, Guinea-Conakry, since 1986.

Humans and chimpanzees are largely similar at early developmental stages, however, there remain several crucial differences. In comparison to humans, chimpanzees are poor in social referencing ability and have been very rarely observed to engage in general imitation and active teaching. Young chimpanzees possess exceptional working memory capacities often superior to those of human adults. In contrast, their ability to learn the meaning of symbols is relatively poor.

Boussou Jire family

Human infants are typically raised by more than one adult, not only the mother, but also the father, siblings, grandparents, and the other members of the community. The human infant is characterized by the stable supine posture of the neonate that enables face-to-face communication via facial expressions, vocal exchange, manual gestures, and object manipulation because both hands are free. The stable supine posture makes us human. The development of social cognition in humans may be integrally linked to this mother-infant relationship and the species-specific way of rearing the children.

Based on the parallel effort of the fieldwork and the laboratory work on chimpanzees, Professor Matsuzawa presents possible evolutionary and ontogenetic explanations for aspects of cognition that are uniquely human.

For further information, please see: www.matsuzawa.kyoto



Registration and coffee


Welcome by Thomas Ebbesen │ Director, University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study (USIAS)


Opening Words by Catherine Florentz Vice-President for Research, University of Strasbourg


Introduction by Yvon Le Maho Senior Researcher CNRS, Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, Strasbourg


Lecture by Tetsuro Matsuzawa │Distinguished Professor, Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study


Debate moderated by Yvon Le Maho



Tetsuro Matsuzawa

Pr Tetsuro MatsuzawaTetsuro Matsuzawa is Distinguished Professor in Primatology at the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study, and Professor at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University.

Professor Matsuzawa aims to synthesize field and lab work to understand the nature of chimpanzees. He has been studying chimpanzee intelligence both in the laboratory and in the wild. The laboratory work is known as “Ai-project” since 1976, named after “Ai”, a 30-year-old female chimpanzee at Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University (KUPRI), who has been central to his research on cognition (e.g. language-like skills, number-concepts, memory ability). He has also been studying tool use and social learning in the wild chimpanzees at Bossou-Nimba, Guinea, West Africa, since 1986.

Professor Matsuzawa has contributed to the foundations of Primatology in major ways, notably establishing Comparative Cognitive Science. From 2006-2012 he was director of the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University. He published more than 200 journal articles and  books such as Primate origins of human cognition and behavior (2001), Cognitive development in chimpanzees (2006), The chimpanzees of Bossou and Nimba (2011). He received numerous prizes including the Jane Goodall Award in 2001, the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2004, and the status of Person of Cultural Merit in 2013 (Japan).

The lecture of Professor Matsuzawa is part of the Kyoto Lectures Series, organised to celebrate 25 years of close ties between the University of Strasbourg and Kyoto University.

Investissements d'Avenir