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Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) flexibly adjust their behaviour in order to maximize payoffs, not to conform to majorities.

Van Leeuwen EJ, Cronin KA, Schütte S, Call J, Haun DB - PLoS ONE (2013)

Bottom Line: Yet, sometimes their conservative nature seems to hamper the flexible adoption of superior alternatives, even to the extent that they persist in using entirely ineffective strategies.In this study, we investigated chimpanzees' behavioural flexibility in two different conditions under which social animals have been predicted to abandon personal preferences and adopt alternative strategies: i) under influence of majority demonstrations (i.e. conformity), and ii) in the presence of superior reward contingencies (i.e. maximizing payoffs).Studying captive (n=16) and semi-wild (n=12) chimpanzees in two complementary exchange paradigms, we found that chimpanzees did not abandon their behaviour in order to match the majority, but instead remained faithful to their first-learned strategy (Study 1a and 1b).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Max Planck Research Group for Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
Chimpanzees have been shown to be adept learners, both individually and socially. Yet, sometimes their conservative nature seems to hamper the flexible adoption of superior alternatives, even to the extent that they persist in using entirely ineffective strategies. In this study, we investigated chimpanzees' behavioural flexibility in two different conditions under which social animals have been predicted to abandon personal preferences and adopt alternative strategies: i) under influence of majority demonstrations (i.e. conformity), and ii) in the presence of superior reward contingencies (i.e. maximizing payoffs). Unlike previous nonhuman primate studies, this study disentangled the concept of conformity from the tendency to maintain one's first-learned strategy. Studying captive (n=16) and semi-wild (n=12) chimpanzees in two complementary exchange paradigms, we found that chimpanzees did not abandon their behaviour in order to match the majority, but instead remained faithful to their first-learned strategy (Study 1a and 1b). However, the chimpanzees' fidelity to their first-learned strategy was overridden by an experimental upgrade of the profitability of the alternative strategy (Study 2). We interpret our observations in terms of chimpanzees' relative weighing of behavioural options as a function of situation-specific trade-offs. More specifically, contrary to previous findings, chimpanzees in our study abandoned their familiar behaviour to maximize payoffs, but not to conform to a majority.

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Depicted are the tokens that the subgroups in Study 1a were trained on: brown, plastic sticks for the majority (a), and white, plastic cups for the minority (b).
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pone-0080945-g001: Depicted are the tokens that the subgroups in Study 1a were trained on: brown, plastic sticks for the majority (a), and white, plastic cups for the minority (b).

Mentions: First, subjects were individually trained on a token-reward contingency, where the majority subjects were trained on brown, plastic sticks (Figure 1a) and the minority subjects on white, plastic cups (Figure 1b). Chimpanzees were presented with a token and rewarded one piece of apple for returning it to the experimenter. After the first exchange, 6 tokens were presented on a tray in an adjacent, accessible room. The chimpanzees had to collect the tokens, travel back to the experimenter and put them through a hole in a piece of perspex that was attached to safety mesh separating the chimpanzees from the experimenter. One training session consisted of exchanging a set of 6 tokens 3 consecutive times and lasted an average of 12.4 minutes (range 6.7 - 19.3 minutes). All chimpanzees were trained on their respective token for one session on three days over the course of two weeks, and returned all tokens successfully.


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) flexibly adjust their behaviour in order to maximize payoffs, not to conform to majorities.

Van Leeuwen EJ, Cronin KA, Schütte S, Call J, Haun DB - PLoS ONE (2013)

Depicted are the tokens that the subgroups in Study 1a were trained on: brown, plastic sticks for the majority (a), and white, plastic cups for the minority (b).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3842352&req=5

pone-0080945-g001: Depicted are the tokens that the subgroups in Study 1a were trained on: brown, plastic sticks for the majority (a), and white, plastic cups for the minority (b).
Mentions: First, subjects were individually trained on a token-reward contingency, where the majority subjects were trained on brown, plastic sticks (Figure 1a) and the minority subjects on white, plastic cups (Figure 1b). Chimpanzees were presented with a token and rewarded one piece of apple for returning it to the experimenter. After the first exchange, 6 tokens were presented on a tray in an adjacent, accessible room. The chimpanzees had to collect the tokens, travel back to the experimenter and put them through a hole in a piece of perspex that was attached to safety mesh separating the chimpanzees from the experimenter. One training session consisted of exchanging a set of 6 tokens 3 consecutive times and lasted an average of 12.4 minutes (range 6.7 - 19.3 minutes). All chimpanzees were trained on their respective token for one session on three days over the course of two weeks, and returned all tokens successfully.

Bottom Line: Yet, sometimes their conservative nature seems to hamper the flexible adoption of superior alternatives, even to the extent that they persist in using entirely ineffective strategies.In this study, we investigated chimpanzees' behavioural flexibility in two different conditions under which social animals have been predicted to abandon personal preferences and adopt alternative strategies: i) under influence of majority demonstrations (i.e. conformity), and ii) in the presence of superior reward contingencies (i.e. maximizing payoffs).Studying captive (n=16) and semi-wild (n=12) chimpanzees in two complementary exchange paradigms, we found that chimpanzees did not abandon their behaviour in order to match the majority, but instead remained faithful to their first-learned strategy (Study 1a and 1b).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Max Planck Research Group for Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT
Chimpanzees have been shown to be adept learners, both individually and socially. Yet, sometimes their conservative nature seems to hamper the flexible adoption of superior alternatives, even to the extent that they persist in using entirely ineffective strategies. In this study, we investigated chimpanzees' behavioural flexibility in two different conditions under which social animals have been predicted to abandon personal preferences and adopt alternative strategies: i) under influence of majority demonstrations (i.e. conformity), and ii) in the presence of superior reward contingencies (i.e. maximizing payoffs). Unlike previous nonhuman primate studies, this study disentangled the concept of conformity from the tendency to maintain one's first-learned strategy. Studying captive (n=16) and semi-wild (n=12) chimpanzees in two complementary exchange paradigms, we found that chimpanzees did not abandon their behaviour in order to match the majority, but instead remained faithful to their first-learned strategy (Study 1a and 1b). However, the chimpanzees' fidelity to their first-learned strategy was overridden by an experimental upgrade of the profitability of the alternative strategy (Study 2). We interpret our observations in terms of chimpanzees' relative weighing of behavioural options as a function of situation-specific trade-offs. More specifically, contrary to previous findings, chimpanzees in our study abandoned their familiar behaviour to maximize payoffs, but not to conform to a majority.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus