Abstract # 93:

Scheduled for Friday, June 22, 2007 10:00 AM-10:15 AM: Session 9 (North Main Hall F/G) Symposium

Mechanisms of Social Learning in Tamarins

C. T. Snowdon
Univ. of Wisconsin, Dept. of Psychology, 1202 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI 53706-1696, USA
     Most research on social learning has focused on whether a species can learn socially. Little attention has been given to specific mechanisms (social relationships, communicative signals, attention to demonstrator) used in social learning and that may underlie individual differences. A mature science of social learning must go beyond mere description of social learning to understand how social learning occurs in individuals. Across several studies, we have identified specific mechanisms in cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). Tamarins learned socially to avoid a highly preferred, familiar food that has been made unpalatable. Individuals sampling the food produced visual disgust responses and used alarm vocalizations in this novel context. Other group members avoided the food. Signals were also involved in food transfers between adults and infants. Adults produce rapid series of food vocalizations exclusively in food transfers with infants. The timing of initiation of transfers predicted when infants fed independently. Individual differences in learning a novel motor skill to obtain food depended on how closely tamarins attended to the demonstrator. Some tamarins display spontaneous stick weaving behavior that is socially transmitted. Whether a naïve animal acquired stick weaving depended both on frequent demonstrations and observer attention to demonstrators. Necessary components for social learning include: interaction with and attention to demonstrators and/or specific signals from the demonstrator. These can account for individual differences in social learning. Supported by MH029775.