Abstract # 74:

Scheduled for Saturday, September 19, 2009 06:30 PM-09:00 PM: Session 5 (Mission Bay Ballroom CDE) Poster Presentation


A. F. Hamel1 and M. A. Novak2
1University of Massachusetts Amherst, Neuroscience and Behavior Graduate Program, Tobin Hall, Amherst, MA 01003, USA, 2Psychology Department, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Tobin Hall, Amherst, MA 01003, USA

Eavesdropping (or watching the interactions of others) may provide significant learning opportunities for the observer. In fact, in certain conditions, eavesdropping may be a more efficient strategy than a face to face interaction. In rhesus monkeys, for example, it may be less threatening to learn of short-term changes in rank or aggressiveness through eavesdropping rather than through direction confrontation. We examined possible eavesdropping in rhesus monkeys by determining whether they watched a choreographed human interaction and then adjusted their behavior accordingly. Monkeys observed interactions in which either a dominant or submissive experimenter performed specific behaviors towards a recipient experimenter. In the first experiment, the actors were familiar to the monkeys whereas in the second experiment, the actors were unfamiliar. After viewing the interactions, the observer monkeys were allowed to select between the two experimenters (dominant or submissive) to receive a treat. We predicted that observers would prefer to request a treat from a dominant rather than a submissive experimenter, given the relatively strong alliance tendencies in this species. Observers had no significant preference for either of the unfamiliar experimenters (Experiment 2) but selected a familiar dominant experimenter significantly more than a familiar submissive experimenter (Experiment 1) [Binomial test: p<0.05]. Results indicate that rhesus monkeys attend to social signals made available during observed interactions to make judgments about familiar human experimenters.