Chimpanzees are More Creative than Humans


To keep an open mind while solving a problem is a crucial factor in a creative approach to thinking. A story sparked our interest in writing about the differences between chimpanzees and humans when it comes to creative thinking. You can read the whole story in Michael Michalko’s article “The Difference Between the Way a Creative Human Thinks and  the Way the Average Person Thinks”. *

A chimpanzee that was taught to stack packing crates to reach a banana that was too high for him to reach by jumping.  The chimpanzee learnt to stack the crates but when he saw another opportunity  he went for it. The chimpanzee waited until the human crossed the middle of the room  and when he was directly under the banana, well, the chimpanzee jumped on his shoulder and grabbed the banana. Would you have done the same?


Imagine a dialogue between a Chimpanzee and a Human.

Chimpanzee: Believe it or not, 98.6 per cent of our DNA is exactly the same as in humans. Still we are so much more creative. We shared a common ancestor who was swinging among the tree tops, around 4 to 8  millions years ago. But what really happened after that?

How come you lost all the creative spark?

Human: Interesting that you refer to a spark. We use sparks to make fire, so we can cook food. And we use sparks in combustion machines to travel all around the word and to ignite rockets to set men on the moon. After all, it were humans who discovered our family bonds.

Chimpanzee: What a waste of time, we focus more on finding creative ways of solving problems. Real problems to make sure that none of us goes hungry. Look at the way you destroy rain forests, woodlands and grasslands here in Africa. Not very smart is it? Fires comes naturally, no need to spend time looking for sparks. Use nature!

Human: From our common ancestor we were much more successful in reproduction. Our life expectancy has doubled, our infant mortality has immensely decreased. I do not have to leave my tree to have a sip of water.

Chimpanzee:  We have a willingness to look at all possible solutions, even if we have found a way to catch a banana that works, I mean the next tree is not the same. Not like your sterile cities, where you follow each other around like ants. Talking about ants, you take a stick and then you. . .

Human: It’s all about efficiency. Once we have discovered a solution, we fix it in a routine or procedure, so any trained ape can repeat it without thinking. No need to reinvent the wheel. Ever heard of a wheel?

Chimpanzee: Maybe it has something to do with that we can both swing from branch to branch, knuckle walk and also walk upright. This means that we see the world from a different perspective, we can easily figure out what it is like to be a bird, or an ant. We simply don’t need any silly wheels!


Human: Make it short, I have to take the evening flight to New York.

Chimpanzee: New York, we will soon have legal person status there, so why would you like to go there?

What about art?

Well, we see a different scene everyday. The clouds are constantly changing. While, your artists are painting something that looks the same every day. And since you seldom fly over a panting or look at it from the ant’s perspective, I mean, what a limited experience you get. And artists tend to paint using a certain style. You never know what the sky is going to do next. Or which way a branch will bend and twist.

bakaPainting by Baka, a Sumatran orangutan

Human: Would  you also claim that cave art was made by Chimpanzees? I must acknowledge that our scientists have never considered that possibility.

Chimpanzee: And you go to the supermarket to buy food. All looking the same brands. We spend hours sharpening and perfecting our skills, to make sure that we can get the best insects from their nests. Or dig out grubs out of logs. A constant creative challenge. Everyday we look for the perfect leaf to use as sponges to soak up water. While you spend hours stacking the washing machine in the same way and drink from the same cup every day.

Every day. The same mug is used. We change leaf everyday! No wonder our mind is so innovative.

Human: Innovative or not, we invented agriculture. There is no need for us anymore to spend day after day looking for food. Now we have a lot of spare time to do other nice things, like discovering America or gossiping about other people shown on flat screens.

Chimpanzee: But we are great at strategic games. That makes us great innovators! I suppose our whole life is based upon finding the best strategy based upon avoiding getting eaten by lions. Humans have no predators, do they? So no wonder you are not so creative.

Human: Pardon, you mean doing power plays with rivals for food and women? To defend the dominant position of the strongest members of the tribe? Humans invented law and the police. But you are right, we have no predators, but sometimes we simply invent them.

Chimpanzee: Female or very young chimpanzees are even more innovative and they are great tool-makers.

Human: I have to admit that it is not so with our females. It took a man to invent a vacuum cleaner something that  improved the life of our women dramatically. And our children are locked up in schools for 16 years in order to unlearn their natural creative thinking, we assume that creativity is dangerous for society.

Only kidding. Do you understand jokes?

Chimpanzee: Ah, now that I have written this blog post, I do!

* We have searched for a reference for the story, but we failed. The main point is that animals are innovative and there are several examples of them using tools in creative ways.

Live Science
Animal Innovation
Creativity on the Wild Side –  Animal Innovation
Chimps have better Short-Term Memory than Humans
The Origins of Creativity
Chimps Out-Smart Human in Simple Strategy Game

Legal Status:

Ny Court asked to give Chimpanzee “Legal Person” Status

Photo:”Chimpanzee” by anankkml,”Chimpanzee” by Michael Elliott,”Chimpanzees” by M – Pics


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