Abstract # 98:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2007 11:30 AM-11:45 AM: Session 9 (North Main Hall F/G) Symposium


The Importance of Social Dynamics in Primate Traditions: A Discussion of the Methodological Factors that can Make or Break Studies of Social Transmission

V. Horner1,2
1Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Center , Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30043, USA, 2Center for Social Learning & Cognitive Evolution, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK
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     In the wild, non-human traditions are typically identified by observing patterns of behavioral variation between populations of the same species. In 1995, Coussi-Korbel and Fragaszy published a landmark paper which documented how social relationships between individuals could influence behavior at both the population and species level. However, with few exceptions, most reports of traditions provide little information about the role of social dynamics in the transmission of behavior. This talk will detail three recent studies of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) cultural transmission conducted with two captive populations (N=15, N=14) at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, designed to investigate how social dynamics can help or hinder the transmission of behavior within a population. Each study employed a different methodology; transmission of behavior within a population from a single trained model (Whiten et al., 2005), linear diffusion of food processing techniques (Horner et al., 2006), and diffusion of arbitrary behavior (Bonnie et al., 2007). In addition to the main findings we have encountered factors related to social dynamics between individuals which are crucial to successful transmission. We believe analogous factors are likely to be in operation during behavior transmission in the wild. The potential for social constraints on socially-mediated learning requires methodologies to be developed to overcome and understand these factors.