Behavioral conservatism is linked to complexity of behavior in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) : implications for cognition and cumulative culture
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Cumulative culture is rare, if not altogether absent in non-human species. At the foundation of cumulative learning is the ability to modify, relinquish or build upon prior behaviors flexibly to make them more productive or efficient. Within the primate literature, a failure to optimize solutions in this way is often proposed to derive from low-fidelity copying of witnessed behaviors, sub-optimal social learning heuristics, or a lack of relevant socio-cognitive adaptations. However, humans can also be markedly inflexible in their behaviors, perseverating with, or becoming fixated on outdated or inappropriate responses. Humans show differential patterns of flexibility as a function of cognitive load, exhibiting difficulties with inhibiting sub-optimal behaviors when there are high demands on working memory. We present a series of studies on captive chimpanzees which indicate that behavioral conservatism in apes may be underlain by similar constraints: chimpanzees showed relatively little conservatism when behavioral optimization involved the inhibition of a well-established but simple solution, or the addition of a simple modification to a well-established but complex solution. In contrast, when behavioral optimization involved the inhibition of a well-established but complex solution, chimpanzees showed evidence of conservatism. We propose that conservatism is linked to behavioral complexity, potentially mediated by cognitive resource availability, and may be an important factor in the evolution of cumulative culture.
Davis , S J , Schapiro , S J , Lambeth , S P , Wood , L A & Whiten , A 2018 , ' Behavioral conservatism is linked to complexity of behavior in chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes ) : implications for cognition and cumulative culture ' , Journal of Comparative Psychology , vol. Advance Online . https://doi.org/10.1037/com0000123
Journal of Comparative Psychology
© 2018 American Psychological Association. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created accepted version manuscript following peer review and as such may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1037/com0000123
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