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J Comp Psychol. 1995 Jun;109(2):134-41.

The responses of female baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus) to anomalous social interactions: evidence for causal reasoning?

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Baboons' (Papio cynocephalus ursinus) understanding of cause-effect relations in the context of social interactions was examined through use of a playback experiment. Under natural conditions, dominant female baboons often grunt to more subordinate mothers when interacting with their infants. Mothers occasionally respond to these grunts by uttering submissive fear barks. Subjects were played causally inconsistent call sequences in which a lower ranking female apparently grunted to a higher ranking female, and the higher ranking female apparently responded with fear barks. As a control, subjects heard a sequence made causally consistent by the inclusion of grunts from a 3rd female that was dominant to both of the others. Subjects responded significantly more strongly to the causally inconsistent sequences, suggesting that they recognized the factors that cause 1 individual to give submissive vocalizations to another.

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