Do dogs distinguish rational from irrational acts?

Range et al. (2007, Current Biology, 17, 868-872) found that dogs, Canis familiaris, copy others’ means to achieve a goal more often when those means are the rational solution to a problem than when they are irrational. In our first experiment, we added a further control condition and failed to replicate this result, suggesting that dogs […]

Experimental studies of traditions and underlying transmission processes in chimpanzees

Multiple regional differences in tool use have been identified among wild chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, but the hypothesis that these represent traditions, transmitted through social learning, is difficult to substantiate without experimentation. To test chimpanzees’ capacity to sustain traditions, we seeded alternative tool use techniques in single individuals in different captive groups. One technique, [`]Lift’, spread […]

Imitative pecking by budgerigars, Melopsittacus undulatus, over a 24 h delay

On video, budgerigars observed a conspecific demonstrator depressing a stopper by pecking or by stepping and then feeding from the box below. The observers were given access to the stopper, immediately after observation or following a 24 h delay, and we recorded the proportion of their stopper removal responses that were made by pecking and by […]

Imitative learning by captive western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in a simulated food-processing task

Although field studies have suggested the existence of cultural transmission of foraging techniques in primates, identification of transmission mechanisms has remained elusive. To test experimentally for evidence of imitation in the current study, the authors exposed gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) to an artificial fruit foraging task designed by A. Whiten and D. M. Custance (1996). […]

Perspectives on Observational Learning in Animals

Observational learning is presumed to have occurred when an organism copies an improbable action or action outcome that it has observed and the matching behavior cannot be explained by an alternative mechanism. Psychologists have been particularly interested in the form of observational learning known as imitation and in how to distinguish imitation from other processes. […]

Evidence for Contagious Behaviors in Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus): An Observational Studyof Yawning and Stretching

Yawning is contagious in humans and some non-human primates. If there are social functions to contagious behaviors, such as yawning, they might occur in other highly social vertebrates. To investigate this possibility, we conducted an observational study of yawning and an associated behavior, stretching, in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), a social, flock-living parrot. Flock-housed budgerigars were […]

Social learning and spread of alternative means of opening an artificial fruit in four groups of vervet monkeys

Two-action experiments, in which observer individuals watch models use one of two alternative methods to achieve the same goal, have become recognized as a powerful method for studying social learning. We applied this approach to vervet monkeys, Chlorocebus aethiops, using an artificial fruit (‘vervetable’) which could be opened by either lifting a door panel on […]