Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Emulation, imitation, over-imitation and the scope of culture for child and chimpanzee

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

DOI

Author(s)

Andrew Whiten, Nicola McGuigan, Sarah Marshall-Pescini, Lydia M Hopper

School/Research organisations

Abstract

We describe our recent studies of imitation and cultural transmission in chimpanzees and children, which question late twentieth-century characterizations of children as imitators, but chimpanzees as emulators. As emulation entails learning only about the results of others' actions, it has been thought to curtail any capacity to sustain cultures. Recent chimpanzee diffusion experiments have by contrast documented a significant capacity for copying local behavioural traditions. Additionally, in recent 'ghost' experiments with no model visible, chimpanzees failed to replicate the object movements on which emulation is supposed to focus. We conclude that chimpanzees rely more on imitation and have greater cultural capacities than previously acknowledged. However, we also find that they selectively apply a range of social learning processes that include emulation. Recent studies demonstrating surprisingly unselective 'over-imitation' in children suggest that children's propensity to imitate has been underestimated too. We discuss the implications of these developments for the nature of social learning and culture in the two species. Finally, our new experiments directly address cumulative cultural learning. Initial results demonstrate a relative conservatism and conformity in chimpanzees' learning, contrasting with cumulative cultural learning in young children. This difference may contribute much to the contrast in these species' capacities for cultural evolution.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2417-2428
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences
Volume364
Issue number1528
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Aug 2009

    Research areas

  • imitation, emulation, social learning, cultural transmission, cumulative culture, chimpanzees, PAN-TROGLODYTES, HOMO-SAPIENS, TOOL USE, ARTIFICIAL FRUIT, YOUNG-CHILDREN, TRANSMISSION, TRADITIONS, INFANTS, PIGEONS, HUMANS

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Field experiments with wild primates reveal no consistent dominance-based bias in social learning

    Botting, J., Whiten, A., Grampp, M. & van de Waal, E. Feb 2018 In : Animal Behaviour. 136, p. 1-12 12 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. Innovation and social transmission in experimental micro-societies: exploring the scope of cumulative culture in young children

    McGuigan, N., Burdett, E., Burgess, V., Dean, L., Lucas, A., Vale, G. & Whiten, A. 5 Dec 2017 In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 372, 1735, 14 p., 20160425

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. The development of selective copying: children's learning from an expert versus their mother

    Lucas, A. J., Burdett, E. R. R., Burgess, V., Wood, L. A., McGuigan, N., Harris, P. L. & Whiten, A. 7 Nov 2017 In : Child Development. 88, 6, p. 2026-2042 17 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  4. Social learning, culture and the ‘socio-cultural brain’ of human and non-human primates

    Whiten, A. & van de Waal, E. Nov 2017 In : Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 82, p. 58-75

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewReview article

Related by journal

  1. Tool Use as Adaptation

    Biro, D. (ed.), Haslam, M. (ed.) & Rutz, C. (ed.) 2013 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences, 368, 1630

    Research output: ResearchSpecial issue

Related by journal

  1. Innovation and social transmission in experimental micro-societies: exploring the scope of cumulative culture in young children

    McGuigan, N., Burdett, E., Burgess, V., Dean, L., Lucas, A., Vale, G. & Whiten, A. 5 Dec 2017 In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 372, 1735, 14 p., 20160425

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. Perception of health from facial cues

    Henderson, A. J., Holzleitner, I. J., Talamas, S. N. & Perrett, D. I. 5 May 2016 In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 371, 1693, p. 1-9 9 p., 20150380

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. Biogeochemical significance of pelagic ecosystem function: an end-Cretaceous case study

    Henehan, M., Hull, P., Penman, D., Rae, J. W. B. & Schmidt, D. May 2016 In : Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 371, 1694, 14 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Related by journal

  1. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences (Journal)

    Rutz, C. (Editor)
    20122013

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  2. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B (Journal)

    Cresswell, W. (Member of editorial board)
    20092014

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  3. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences (Journal)

    van Mourik, T. (Member of editorial board)
    2009

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  4. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences (Journal)

    Whiten, A. (Member of editorial board)
    2008 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

ID: 433644