Abstract # 97:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2007 11:15 AM-11:30 AM: Session 9 (North Main Hall F/G) Symposium

Considering the Social in Socially-mediated Learning: Lessons from Capuchins and Chimpanzees

K. E. Bonnie
Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Center, Emory University , Atlanta, GA 30329, USA
     By definition, social learning involves a social component with one or more individuals learning from the observation of or interaction with others. Remarkably, the social aspect of social learning among primates has been largely ignored. In two recent studies conducted at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, we explored how social affiliations affected social learning of a foraging task among brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella), and the transmission of a grooming tradition among chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We predicted that a positive affiliation between model and observer would enhance the speed and fidelity of social learning in both species. Drawing on data collected during regular observations of our primate groups, social affiliations were defined by the proportion of time individuals spent in proximity to and engaged in positive behavioral interactions (e.g. grooming), relative to agnostic and/or neutral interactions. Data from the two studies (reported in Bonnie & de Waal, 2006, and de Waal & Bonnie, in press) support our hypothesis and show that affiliation affects social learning in capuchin monkeys and was positively correlated with the spread of a novel behavior among chimpanzees. In conclusion, understanding how the specific social relationship between individuals influences performance should affect both the planning of experiments and how researchers interpret outcomes in experiments investigating social learning in non-human primates.