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Elephants Get the Point


New research shows elephants spontaneously understand the communicative intent of human pointing and can use it as a cue to find food.

Richard Byrne and Anna Smet of the University of St. Andrews tested 11 African elephants on what’s known as the object-choice task. In this task, a food reward is hidden in one of several containers and the experimenter signals which one by pointing to it.

People understand pointing, even as young children. But the track record of other animals on the object-choice task is mixed.

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