Published on Mon Jul 12 2021

Cultural behaviours can be experimentally induced in wild baboons despite constraints on social information transmission

Carter, A., Cowlishaw, G.

The formation of culture in animal societies, including humans, relies on the social transmission of information amongst individuals. This spread depends upon the transmission of social information, or social learning, between individuals. To better understand how constraints at the individual-, dyad- and group-level might influence the formation of

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Abstract

The formation of culture in animal societies, including humans, relies on the social transmission of information amongst individuals. This spread depends upon the transmission of social information, or social learning, between individuals. However, not all information spreads. To better understand how constraints at the individual-, dyad- and group-level might influence the formation of culture, we experimentally introduced four innovations (novel behaviours) across three troops of wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus). At the individual-level, different phenotypic traits constrained individuals' use of social information about the innovations. At the dyad-level, we found evidence for social reinforcement and directed social learning affecting who learnt and from whom. Group-level characteristics also limited the diffusion of information, which spread more slowly through social networks that showed less mixing across age classes. Nevertheless, despite these multi-level limitations, the four innovations quickly spread through all the social groups in which they were tested, suggesting that the formation of animal cultures can be surprisingly resilient to constraints on information transmission.