Testing for social learning and imitation in common marmosets, Callithrix jacchus, using an artificial fruit



Caldwell CA & Whiten A (2004) Testing for social learning and imitation in common marmosets, Callithrix jacchus, using an artificial fruit. Animal Cognition, 7 (2), pp. 77-85.

We tested for social learning and imitation in common marmosets using an artificial foraging task and trained conspecific demonstrators. We trained a demonstrator marmoset to open an artificial fruit, providing a full demonstration of the task to be learned. Another marmoset provided a partial demonstration, controlling for stimulus enhancement effects, by eating food from the outside of the apparatus. We thus compared three observer groups, each consisting of four animals: those that received the full demonstration, those that received the partial demonstration, and a control group that saw no demonstration prior to testing. Although none of the observer marmosets succeeded in opening the artificial fruit during the test periods, there were clear effects of demonstration type. Those that saw the full demonstration manipulated the apparatus more overall, whereas those from the control group manipulated it the least of the three groups. Those from the full-demonstration group also contacted the particular parts of the artificial fruit that they had seen touched (localised stimulus enhancement) to a greater extent than the other two groups. There was also an interaction between the number of hand and mouth touches made to the artificial fruit for the full- and partial-demonstration groups. Whether or not these data represent evidence for imitation is discussed. We also propose that the clear differences between the groups suggest that social learning mechanisms provide real benefits to these animals in terms of developing novel food-processing skills analogous to the one presented here.

marmosets; Callithrix jacchus; social learning; imitation; artificial fruit

Animal Cognition: Volume 7, Issue 2

Publication date30/04/2004

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Professor Christine Anna Caldwell

Professor Christine Anna Caldwell

Professor & Deputy Dean of Faculty, Psychology