, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 261–275 | Cite as

Social attention biases in juvenile wild vervet monkeys: implications for socialisation and social learning processes

  • Mathilde GramppEmail author
  • Cédric Sueur
  • Erica van de Waal
  • Jennifer Botting
Special Feature: Original Article Social networks analysis in primates, a multilevel perspective


The concept of directed social learning predicts that social learning opportunities for an individual will depend on social dynamics, context and demonstrator identity. However, few empirical studies have examined social attention biases in animal groups. Sex-based and kinship-based biases in social learning and social attention towards females have been shown in a despotic and female philopatric primate: the vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus). The present study examined social attention during the juvenile period. Social attention was recorded through 5-min focal observations during periods of natural foraging. Kin emerged as the most important focus of social attention in juveniles, intensified by biased spatial proximity towards matrilineal related members. The highest-ranking conspecifics were more frequently observed by juveniles than low-ranking ones. Additionally, younger and orphaned juveniles showed higher levels of social attention overall, compared to other age categories. No effect of the juvenile’s hierarchical rank was detected, suggesting that the variation in social attention recorded reflects different biases and stages of social learning and socialisation, rather than social anxiety. Juvenile females tended to exhibit a dominance-based bias more strongly than did males. This might be explained by a greater emphasis on attaining social knowledge during juvenile socialisation in the philopatric sex. Moreover, despite a preferred association between juveniles, social attention was more often directed to adults, suggesting that adults may still be more often chosen as a target of attention independent of their dominance rank.


Juvenile socialisation Rank acquisition Female philopatry Social learning biases Early social experience Social network 



We are grateful to the late K. van der Walt for permission to conduct the study in his reserve. The authors would especially like to thank M. Bodin for collecting the focal data in one of the groups (NH), in addition to the other students and volunteers for their assistance in long-term data collection at IVP, and the on-site manager A. van Blerk for his great support. We thank A. Whiten for his useful comments on the manuscript.


JB was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation (ID40128 to A. Whiten). EW and the IVP project have received grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation (P300P3_151187 and 31003A_159587) and the Branco Weiss Fellowship-Society in Science.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Research involving human and animal participants

No human participants were included in this study. This study was approved by the University of Strasbourg and was carried out in full accordance with the ethical guidelines and European animal welfare legislation. Animals were habituated to the observers’ presence. Every effort was made to ensure the welfare of the animals and minimise disturbance of the groups.

Supplementary material

10329_2019_721_MOESM1_ESM.docx (63 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 62 kb)


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculté des Sciences de la VieUniversité de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.Inkawu Vervet ProjectKwaZulu-NatalSouth Africa
  3. 3.Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, IPHC, UMR 7178StrasbourgFrance
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  5. 5.School of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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