Orphaned chimpanzee infants given special ‘mothering’ by humans are more advanced than the average child at nine months of age.
In the first study to examine the effect of different types of care for infant chimpanzees on cognition, researchers found chimpanzees who were given extra emotionally-based care were more cognitively advanced than human infants.
Humans overtake chimpanzees in development terms as they grow older but the study sends stark warnings that looking after just an infant’s physical needs is likely to result in a child who is maladjusted, unhappy and under-achieving.
The study was carried out by psychology expert Professor Kim Bard, of the Centre for the Study of Emotion at the University of Portsmouth.
She said: “The attachment system of infant chimpanzees appears surprisingly similar to that found in human infants. Early experiences, either of warm, responsive care-giving or of extreme deprivation, have a dramatic impact on emotional and cognitive outcomes in both chimpanzees and humans.