Chimpanzees’ socially maintained food preferences indicate both conservatism and conformity

Chimpanzees in the medium-value reward group observed an average of 208.0 token exchanges, with both token forms, by their groupmates, while chimpanzees in the high-value reward group observed an average of 454.7 exchanges

Lydia M. Hopper

2011

Scholarcy highlights

  • Chimpanzees remain fixed on a single strategy, even if a novel, more efficient, strategy is introduced
  • Throughout the 10 h of the open diffusion test, chimpanzees showed a strong interest in the actions of their groupmates and were classed as ‘observing’ if they were within 1 m, and oriented towards, another chimpanzee exchanging a token with the experimenter
  • Chimpanzees in the medium-value reward group observed an average of 208.0 token exchanges, with both token forms, by their groupmates, while chimpanzees in the high-value reward group observed an average of 454.7 exchanges
  • In the MR group, this remained true even after chimpanzees discovered that SS tokens gave them highly prized grapes, both through the observation of groupmates exchanging SS tokens and exchanging SS tokens themselves
  • The chimpanzees did not switch to the more profitable strategy, but instead they continued with the introduced method of exchanging CC tokens for the less preferred carrots. These findings are consistent with previous studies suggesting that chimpanzees are unable to transition to a novel behaviour if they already are proficient at a productive strategy, but they differ in two important ways
  • When the model’s exchange responses were included in the analysis, the level of exchanging the CC tokens remained at the same high rate
  • The chimpanzees in the MR group stuck to the introduced method, despite the fact that it caused them to act against their previously expressed food preferences

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