Abstract # 184:

Scheduled for Sunday, September 18, 2011 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 23 (Salon G (Sixth Floor)) Poster Presentation


K. E. Watkins1, L. A. Parr1,2,3, J. G. Herndon1, V. Horner4, T. M. Eppley4 and F. B. M. de Waal4
1Yerkes Primate Research Center, Emory University, 954 Gatewood Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA, 2Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University, 3Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University, 4Living Links Center, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University

Extensive research has demonstrated the capacity for social learning and cultural transmission in chimpanzees, but few studies have focused on directed social learning, where the identity and characteristics of the demonstrator affect the probability of social learning. Exploring individual factors that influence this choice to selectively imitate – such as age, sex, dominance display, or expertise – will inform our understanding of the evolutionary history of directed social learning. In this study, we begin to identify and isolate these key differences between demonstrators and assess their influence on directed social learning. Chimpanzee subjects (Pan troglodytes) were shown video of unknown conspecific demonstrators solving a two-solution, grape-dispensing puzzle box. We chose demonstrators of different ages and presented footage of each solving the puzzle box in different ways (“push” vs. “slide”). One group of subjects (n=14) viewed video footage of the older demonstrator solving the puzzle box using the push technique and the younger demonstrator using the slide technique. The other group (n=15) viewed the same older demonstrator using the slide technique and the younger demonstrator using the push technique. We predict that subjects will be more likely to attempt the solution performed by the older demonstrator. This approach has significant applications in ongoing research designed to assess the role of other social cues, such as dominance display or sex, on social learning.