Basis for Cumulative Cultural Evolution in Chimpanzees: Social Learning of a More Efficient Tool-Use Technique

Yamamoto, Shinya and Humle, Tatyana and Tanaka, Masayuki (2013) Basis for Cumulative Cultural Evolution in Chimpanzees: Social Learning of a More Efficient Tool-Use Technique. PLoS ONE, 8 (1). e55768. ISSN 1932-6203. (doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055768) (Full text available)

Abstract

Background: The evidence for culture in non-human animals has been growing incrementally over the past two decades. However, the ability for cumulative cultural evolution, with successive generations building on earlier achievements, in non-human animals remains debated. Faithful social learning of incremental improvements in technique is considered to be a defining feature of human culture, differentiating human from non-human cultures. This study presents the first experimental evidence for chimpanzees' social transmission of a more efficient tool-use technique invented by a conspecific group member. Methodology/Principal Findings: The chimpanzees were provided with a straw-tube, and spontaneously demonstrated two different techniques in obtaining juice through a small hole: "dipping" and "straw-sucking". Both the "dipping" and "straw-sucking" techniques depended on the use of the same tool (straw-tube) for the same target (juice) accessible from exactly the same location (small hole 1 cm in diameter). Therefore the difference between "dipping" and "straw-sucking" was only in "technique". Although the two techniques differed significantly in their efficiency, their cognitive and perceptuo-motor complexity were comparable. All five chimpanzees who initially performed the "dipping" technique switched to using the more efficient "straw-sucking" technique upon observing a conspecific or human demonstrate the more proficient alternate "straw-sucking" technique. Conclusions/Significance: The social learning mechanism involved here was clearly not local or stimulus enhancement, but imitation or emulation of a tool-use technique. When there is no biologically relevant difference in cognitive or perceptuo-motor complexity between two techniques, and when chimpanzees are dissatisfied with their own technique, chimpanzees may socially learn an improved technique upon close observation of a proficient demonstrator. This study provides important insights into the cognitive basis for cumulative culture in chimpanzees, and also suggests possible conditions in which cumulative cultural evolution could arise even in non-human animals.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: animal behavior, animal experiment, article, behavior change, behavioral science, chimpanzee, cultural anthropology, executive function, female, imitation, latent period, male, nonhuman, perceptive discrimination, psychomotor performance, social cognition, social learning, task performance
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > Biological Anthropology
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: Tatyana Humle
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2014 10:31 UTC
Last Modified: 23 May 2014 09:43 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/38021 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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