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Anim Cogn. 2007 Jul;10(3):283-92.

Copying without rewards: socially influenced foraging decisions among brown capuchin monkeys.

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  • 1Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Atlanta, GA, USA.


An individual's foraging activity can be influenced by the choices made by nearby conspecifics. The interest shown in the location and characteristics of a feeding patch may depend on the feeding success of a conspecific there, a process that needs to be distinguished from choices guided by rewards to the observer itself. We investigated how rewards for both self and others influence the foraging choices of captive capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Thirteen adult capuchins observed familiar female conspecific models explore one of three opaque boxes under three conditions. In the first, there were no rewards available to either monkey; in the second, rewards were available to the model only; and in the third, both monkeys could retrieve a reward. Under all conditions, subjects more often explored the same box as the model than was expected by chance. Thus, without ever receiving a reward themselves or without seeing another receive rewards, subjects' searches were directed at the box explored by another monkey. The tendency to match the model's choice increased if the subject was rewarded. We compared these results to control conditions in which the model was either absent, or present but not allowed to demonstrate. Subjects' located the reward less often in control conditions, than in the experimental conditions. We conclude that extrinsic rewards, while helpful, are not required for partners to influence the foraging choices of capuchins, and that the unrewarded copying of foraging choices demonstrated here may provide the basis for additional social influences on learning.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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