The team trained one chimp to lift the flap to get a food reward, then let a second chimp watch the first one demonstrate the technique several times. The "teacher" was then removed and a new naïve apprentice was brought in to watch the newly taught chimp, and so on.Will this lead to a ban on chimps smoking on television and the silver screen?
A second cultural lineage was started with a chimp trained to slide the door instead of lifting.
In both lineages, the knowledge was passed down almost perfectly: through six teacher-pupil iterations, chimps trained by lifters always lifted, and through five generations sliders always slid.
The researchers observed only a single error, a slider that lifted once out of 20 trials; its apprentice learned to slide anyway.
The result shows that cultural learning is strong in chimps, says Horner. "If the chimps weren't learning from each other, we'd expect over a couple of generations it would degrade to a 50-50 performance. If they weren't very good at copying, you wouldn't see this almost 100% accuracy."
Aug 28, 2006
these chimps are no chumps: part II
In Part One (which wasn't supposed to start a series, but why not?), I pointed to a report of isolated colonies of chimps that developed similar tool-using skills. Biologists were sure a river between the groups prevented "cultural transmission." Perhaps--but what if one chimp forded the stream? It might be possible, because it turns out that chimps are much better at teaching and learning than we thought.