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!
The classroom of tomorrow – DFKI and TUK open lab for new digital teaching and learning methods
03.05.2018 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI
Studying outdoors is better
06.02.2018 | Technische Universität München
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
22.05.2018 | Life Sciences
22.05.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.05.2018 | Trade Fair News