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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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Schematic overview of the experimental setup in Study 1a, Leipzig Zoo (a) and Study 1b and 2, Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust (b).
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pone-0080945-g002: Schematic overview of the experimental setup in Study 1a, Leipzig Zoo (a) and Study 1b and 2, Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust (b).

Mentions: During testing, both tokens (sticks and cups) were available at one location in the enclosure (from two dispensers, each containing one type of token) and rewarded equally (one piece of apple per token) upon delivery at the exchange station (see Figure 2a). Chimpanzees were tested for one hour on ten consecutive days in March 2012 (one week after training). All sessions were recorded using JVC GY-HM100U HD video cameras from three vantage points. Auditory commentary was provided on one of the JVC cameras by the experimenter (detailing which chimpanzee exchanged which token type). Auditory comments were subsequently used to extract information on the “token exchanges”, the videos were analysed for obtaining the “perception records”, i.e. for each individual within a 3-meter radius of the exchange station, we identified which other individuals were exchanging tokens and which type of token they used. This information amounted to individual scores of the number of times the majority and minority token had been observed to be used in exchanges, and the number of different subjects that were observed to use the two different token types. Whereas all tokens were equally rewarded upon exchanging, only the token exchanges where the individual had collected the token at the dispenser (n=2102) were included in the first analysis investigating the effect of majority demonstrations on the behaviour of minority chimpanzees; tokens that had been stolen from others (n=103) were considered opportunistically collected instead of chosen. A second analysis including all tokens (collected from dispenser and stolen, n=2205) was performed to investigate whether the pattern of results would differ.


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)

Schematic overview of the experimental setup in Study 1a, Leipzig Zoo (a) and Study 1b and 2, Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust (b).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0080945-g002: Schematic overview of the experimental setup in Study 1a, Leipzig Zoo (a) and Study 1b and 2, Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust (b).
Mentions: During testing, both tokens (sticks and cups) were available at one location in the enclosure (from two dispensers, each containing one type of token) and rewarded equally (one piece of apple per token) upon delivery at the exchange station (see Figure 2a). Chimpanzees were tested for one hour on ten consecutive days in March 2012 (one week after training). All sessions were recorded using JVC GY-HM100U HD video cameras from three vantage points. Auditory commentary was provided on one of the JVC cameras by the experimenter (detailing which chimpanzee exchanged which token type). Auditory comments were subsequently used to extract information on the “token exchanges”, the videos were analysed for obtaining the “perception records”, i.e. for each individual within a 3-meter radius of the exchange station, we identified which other individuals were exchanging tokens and which type of token they used. This information amounted to individual scores of the number of times the majority and minority token had been observed to be used in exchanges, and the number of different subjects that were observed to use the two different token types. Whereas all tokens were equally rewarded upon exchanging, only the token exchanges where the individual had collected the token at the dispenser (n=2102) were included in the first analysis investigating the effect of majority demonstrations on the behaviour of minority chimpanzees; tokens that had been stolen from others (n=103) were considered opportunistically collected instead of chosen. A second analysis including all tokens (collected from dispenser and stolen, n=2205) was performed to investigate whether the pattern of results would differ.

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