The transmission of knowledge to the next generation is a key feature of human evolution. In particular, humans tend to copy behaviour that is demonstrated by many other individuals. Chimpanzees and orangutans, two of our closest living relatives, also socially pass on traditional behaviour and culture from one generation to another. Whether and how this process resembles the human one is still largely unknown.
Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen have now discovered that chimpanzees are more likely to copy an action performed by a large number of individuals than an action that was performed more frequently. Two-year old children consider both the number of individuals and the frequency of the action demonstrated. For orangutans, however, none of the factors play a role.
In many animal species, behaviours and strategies are passed on from individuals to their conspecifics and potentially across groups by social learning. In chimpanzees and orangutans, whose behavioural repertoires differ from population to population, knowledge is also "transmitted" amongst individuals. In their current paper, researchers Daniel Haun, Yvonne Rekers and Michael Tomasello of the Max Planck Institutes for Evolutionary Anthropology and Psycholinguistics show how human children and chimpanzees pass on knowledge through social learning.
Initially, the researchers wanted to find out whether children and apes are more likely to copy a behaviour that has been demonstrated more often or one that has been demonstrated by more individuals. In the relevant experimental setting, 2-year-old children, chimpanzees and orangutans could receive a reward from an apparatus consisting of three differently coloured subsections if they dropped a ball into a hole. Four individuals then demonstrated an action: One individual dropped a ball into the same section three times; the three others – one after the other - dropped their balls into another section. Finally, the observers were also asked to drop a ball into one of the three sections. The result: Most of the chimpanzees and 16 children chose the section that the majority of individuals had also chosen. Orangutans appeared to select a section quite randomly.
In the second part of the study, the researchers analysed whether the frequency with which a subsection was chosen by the demonstrators had an influence on the result. The set-up was similar to the previous test, with one exception: now it was only two children, chimpanzees or orangutans who demonstrated an action. One individual dropped three balls into one of the coloured subsections and for doing this received one reward per ball. The second demonstrator dropped one ball in a differently coloured section and received one award. The result: Chimpanzees and orangutans seemed to choose randomly whereas most of the children chose the subsection into which more balls had been dropped.
"Taking the results of the two studies together, chimpanzees seemed to consider the number of demonstrators more strongly than the number of demonstrations when deciding which information to extract from their social environment. Children considered both. Orangutans considered neither", says Daniel Haun. Interestingly, children and chimpanzees copied the majority behaviour while orangutans did not. One possible explanation: Contrary to humans and chimpanzees, orangutans live together in lose group structures. Social learning beyond the mother-child-relationship might therefore not play an equally important role.
Dr. Daniel Haun | EurekAlert!
Decision-making research in children: Rules of thumb are learned with time
19.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
Young people discover the "Learning Center"
20.09.2016 | Research Center Pharmaceutical Engineering GmbH
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences
20.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences