'Is Great-Ape Tool Use Socially or Individually Learnt?'

Frankland 309b
Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Tuesday 9th February 2016 (13:00-14:00)
Download the date to your calendar (.ics file)

Part of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience and Development Group Seminar Series

Speaker: Elisa Bandini, University of Birmingham

Abstract: Although tool-use is observed in several different species, chimpanzees are considered the most proficient and creative tool-users in the animal kingdom after humans. However, it is still very much debated what cognitive mechanisms have allowed chimpanzees to develop such an extensive and sophisticated repertoire of tool-use behaviours. Variation in behaviours across wild chimpanzee populations (such as in tool choice) have led some to suggest that these behaviours must arise through social learning, thus creating a chimpanzee ‘culture’ (Whiten et al, 1999). A new theory, The Zone of Latent Solutions, (Tennie et al, 2009) instead argues that many of these behaviours may emerge spontaneously in each individual if placed in the right ecological conditions. Although social learning plays a role in spreading the behaviour, it is not necessary for the behaviour to first emerge. To understand how tool-use arises in both human and non-human primate communities, both theories must be tested. We present the results of the first experiments on the effect of social learning in chimpanzee tool-use behaviours in order to shed light on the evolution of material culture in the great ape lineage.