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Methods to Study Chimpanzee Social Learning from a Comparative Perspective

Methods to Study Chimpanzee Social Learning from a Comparative Perspective

Chapter:
(p.167) 7 Methods to Study Chimpanzee Social Learning from a Comparative Perspective
Source:
Chimpanzees in Context
Author(s):
Lydia M. HopperAlecia J. Carter
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226728032.003.0007

Social learning describes how one individual can gain information or learn a new skill from observing the actions of another, or the outcomes of their actions. Social learning can potentially enable individuals to avoid time-consuming or even potentially lethal individual learning as they can learn from the success and failures of others. However, the efficacy and usefulness of socially-provided information varies, and so when an individual should copy others, and who they should copy, is a delicate balance. Interest in primate social learning has gained momentum in recent decades, most likely predicated by reports of cultural variation between wild groups of chimpanzees and other primates that have been suggested to rely on social learning. This chapter describes the approaches taken to study primate social learning, as well as the advantages and limitations of each, with a particular aim to review both observational and experimental approaches, and also studies with captive and wild populations. This chapter provides an overview of the sometimes seemingly disparate techniques used to study primate social learning in order to recommend practices typically restricted for use in one setting or species that could be translated to other settings to provide insights about chimpanzee social learning.

Keywords:   social learning, monkey, ape, field research, comparative methods, comparative cognition

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