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Animal Cognition

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 997–1005 | Cite as

Socially learned habituation to human observers in wild chimpanzees

  • Liran Samuni
  • Roger Mundry
  • Joseph Terkel
  • Klaus Zuberbühler
  • Catherine Hobaiter
Original Paper

Abstract

Habituation to human observers is an essential tool in animal behaviour research. Habituation occurs when repeated and inconsequential exposure to a human observer gradually reduces an animal’s natural aversive response. Despite the importance of habituation, little is known about the psychological mechanisms facilitating it in wild animals. Although animal learning theory offers some account, the patterns are more complex in natural than in laboratory settings, especially in large social groups in which individual experiences vary and individuals influence each other. Here, we investigate the role of social learning during the habituation process of a wild chimpanzee group, the Waibira community of Budongo Forest, Uganda. Through post hoc hypothesis testing, we found that the immigration of two well-habituated, young females from the neighbouring Sonso community had a significant effect on the behaviour of non-habituated Waibira individuals towards human observers, suggesting that habituation is partially acquired via social learning.

Keywords

Female transfer Social referencing Social learning Culture Dispersal Observational conditioning 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Waibira chimpanzee field assistants, Simon Lokuyu, Gerald Mayanga, Gideon Atayo and Robert Eguma, and the group of international habituation volunteers; as well as to all the staff of the Budongo Conservation Field Station, the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, the President’s Office, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and the National Forestry Authority. We thank Naomi Paz for her assistance in proofreading the manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and helpful comments and one in particular for the discussion point that larger groups may dilute the effect of the habituated females. Fieldwork of CH and LS was funded by grants from the British Academy and a Leverhulme Trust’s Research Leadership Award.

Supplementary material

10071_2014_731_MOESM1_ESM.docx (104 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 104 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liran Samuni
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Roger Mundry
    • 1
  • Joseph Terkel
    • 2
  • Klaus Zuberbühler
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Catherine Hobaiter
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of Tel AvivTel AvivIsrael
  3. 3.Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution and Scottish Primate Research Group, School of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsScotland, UK
  4. 4.Department of Comparative Cognition, Institute of BiologyUniversity of NeuchatelNeuchâtelSwitzerland
  5. 5.Budongo Conservation Field StationMasindiUganda

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