Dissection of observational learning among chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and children (Homo sapiens)
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In the wild, a variety of inter-group behavioural differences have been reported for chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and it has been suggested that these may have resulted from social learning. To determine whether chimpanzees show the necessary propensity for social learning, groups of captive chimpanzees were tested in a series of experiments involving the use of two-action and bidirectional apparatuses. For comparison, and to shed light on any contrasts between our own and chimpanzee learning strategies, similar tests were also conducted with children (Homo sapiens) to ascertain the nature of their observational learning when watching conspecifics. Through the use of open diffusion and diffusion chain techniques, it was shown that both species learnt how to operate different foraging devices from observing an expert conspecific and this learning was strong enough for the generation of behavioural traditions which passed along multiple test ‘generations’. Additionally, ghost conditions were used to distinguish imitative and emulative learning by both species. With one of the two test devices used (the Slide-box) the first evidence for emulation learning by chimpanzees, through the use of a ghost condition, was shown. Children in this condition also showed apparent emulation; a contrast to previous research which has concluded that children tend to rely on imitation. Additionally, to test its potential for use in future social learning experiments, the ability of chimpanzees to learn from video-footage of an unknown conspecific was tested. It was found that the chimpanzees not only learnt how to operate two devices from observing this footage but also used the same alternative method used by the model chimpanzee.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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