Orangutans Use Affective Forecasting to Predict Tastes

Researchers have now shown that humans aren’t the only ones capable of using a technique called affective forecasting. A captive orangutan predicted whether or not he’d enjoy a juice blend based on his past experiences. The findings were just published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Affective forecasting is the ability to predict how one will feel about a future experience. If a person hasn’t had specific experience with a new situation, they can use affective forecasting to combine a mix of previous experiences. This ability was previously only associated with humans. For example, a human can predict how something will taste based on the ingredients.

A team of researchers from Lund University in Sweden developed a non-verbal test for measuring affective forecasting in non-human animals. The test involved predicting whether or not a juice blend would taste good, based on the individual “ingredient” juices. The researchers used a 21-year-old male Sumatran orangutan from the Furuvik Zoo in Sweden for their experiment. They compared his responses to the choices of 10 human participants.

The participants created juice blends based on past preferences for individual ingredients (cherry juice, rhubarb juice, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar). The orangutan’s choices were as consistent as the humans’ choices and preferences. He chose blends based on past preferences for ingredients and not simply at random. This showed that the orangutan was using some form of affective forecasting, a first for a non-human animal.

In the experiment, the orangutan was just as consistent with his responses as the human volunteers. He created juice blends based on how he enjoyed the individual ingredients in earlier trials. This is the first recorded case of a non-human animal using affective forecasting. The researchers speculate that other animals may have this ability. The development of a non-verbal test will allow for further analysis of non-human species. The researchers hope that their work will help us understand affective forecasting in humans and other animals.


Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc et al. Affective forecasting in an orangutan: predicting the hedonic outcome of novel juice mixes. Animal Cognition (2016).

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