Young macaques (Macaca fascicularis) preferentially bias attention towards closer, older, and better tool users

Tan, A. W. Y., Hemelrijk, C. K., Malaivijitnond, S. & Gumert, M. D., Jul-2018, In : Animal Cognition. 21, 4, p. 551-563 13 p.

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Examining how animals direct social learning during skill acquisition under natural conditions, generates data for examining hypotheses regarding how transmission biases influence cultural change in animal populations. We studied a population of macaques on Koram Island, Thailand, and examined model-based biases during interactions by unskilled individuals with tool-using group members. We first compared the prevalence of interactions (watching, obtaining food, object exploration) and proximity to tool users during interactions, in developing individuals (infants, juveniles) versus mature non-learners (adolescents, adults), to provide evidence that developing individuals are actively seeking information about tool use from social partners. All infants and juveniles, but only 49% of mature individuals carried out interacted with tool users. Macaques predominantly obtained food by scrounging or stealing, suggesting maximizing scrounging opportunities motivates interactions with tool users. However, while interactions by adults was limited to obtaining food, young macaques and particularly infants also watched tool users and explored objects, indicating additional interest in tool use itself. We then ran matrix correlations to identify interaction biases, and what attributes of tool users influenced these. Biases correlated with social affiliation, but macaques also preferentially targeted tool users that potentially increase scrounging and learning opportunities. Results suggest that social structure may constrain social learning, but the motivation to bias interactions towards tool users to maximize feeding opportunities may also socially modulate learning by facilitating close proximity to better tool users, and further interest in tool-use actions and materials, especially during development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-563
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number4
Early online date12-May-2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2018

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