Drinking with an orangutan

I admit I am sucked in by interesting titles. I came across this one in the journal Animal Cognition: “Affective forecasting in an orangutan: Predicting the hedonic outcome of novel juice mixes.”


I’ve never heard of “affective forecasting” before. This and “hedonic outcome” combined with “juice mixes”? I gotta read it!

Turns out this was a research study to determine whether an orangutan, along with some humans, could choose which juice combinations they would like based on their liking of the individual juices.

(Affective forecasting = predicting how you will feel.)

(Hedonic outcome = whether a result is pleasant or not.)

Specifically, they offered cherry juice, rhubarb juice, lemon juice, and diluted apple cider vinegar in little cups. The juices were coloured and the humans were not told what they were. The juices were presented two at a time, and the participant could taste them and choose which one they liked best.

The participants were ten humans and one orangutan: Naong, a male orangutan who was 21 years old. To indicate his choices of juice, Naong would point with his finger or point with a straw that he held between his lips (which is quite hilarious if you ask me).

So once Naong and the humans chose which juices they liked best, then they were shown three cups with a different juice in each. They watched as the experimenter poured one of the juices into another. The participant could then choose whether to drink the combination or the plain juice.

An example:

  • The participant was shown a cup of cherry juice, a cup of lemon juice, and a cup of apple cider vinegar.
  • The participant watched as the lemon juice was poured into the cherry juice.
  • The participant could then choose whether to drink the combination cherry-lemon juice, or the apple cider vinegar.

Below is a handy diagram that was included in the article, showing what was done. The bottom conditions with the covered bottles was to control for the fact that the participants (especially the orangutan) might simply be choosing the bottle with more liquid in it.

Source: Animal Cognition journal

Turns out Naong was just as good as the humans in predicting which juice mixes he would like. Which suggests he can put memories together to precise a new outcome. Quite impressive!

Naong also had quite a penchant for cherry juice…as with most of the humans.

Here is a picture of Naong, who lives at a zoo in Sweden:

Photo courtesy of http://www.newscientist.com


Saucing, G.-A., et al. (2016). Affective forecasting in an orangutan: Predicting the hedonic outcome of novel juice mixes. Animal Cognition. DOI 10.1007/s10071-016-1015-0.


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