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Keywords:

  • cottontop tamarin;
  • social learning;
  • foraging task;
  • behavioral matching

Abstract

We presented adult cottontop tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) with a novel foraging task that had been used previously to examine socially biased learning of juvenile observers [Humle & Snowdon, Animal Behaviour 75:267–277, 2008]. The task could be solved in one of two ways, and thus allowed for an analysis of behavioral matching between an observer and a skilled demonstrator (trained to use one of the two methods exclusively). Because the demonstrator was an adult in both this study and the juvenile study, the influence of the observer's age could be isolated and examined, as well as the behavior of demonstrators toward observers of different ages. Our main goals were to (1) compare adults and juveniles acquiring the same task to identify how the age of the observer affects socially biased learning and (2) examine the relationship between socially biased learning and behavioral matching in adults. Although adults spent less time observing the trained demonstrators than did juveniles, the adults were more proficient at solving the task. Furthermore, even though observers did not overtly match the behavior of the demonstrator, observation remained an important factor in the success of these individuals. The findings suggested that adult observers could extract information needed to solve a novel foraging task without explicitly matching the behavior of the demonstrator. Adult observers begged much less than juveniles and demonstrators did not respond to begging from adult. Skill acquisition and the process of socially biased learning are, therefore, age-dependent and are influenced by the behavioral interactions between observer and demonstrator. To what extent this holds true for other primates or animal species still needs to be more fully investigated and considered when designing experiments and interpreting results. Am. J. Primatol. 72:287–295, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.