Animal Learning & Behavior

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 24–35 | Cite as

Socially biased learning in monkeys

  • D. FragaszyEmail author
  • E. Visalberghi


We review socially biased learning about food and problem solving in monkeys, relying especially on studies with tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) and callitrichid monkeys. Capuchin monkeys most effectively learn to solve a new problem when they can act jointly with an experienced partner in a socially tolerant setting and when the problem can be solved by direct action on an object or substrate, but they do not learn by imitation. Capuchin monkeys are motivated to eat foods, whether familiar or novel, when they are with others that are eating, regardless of what the others are eating. Thus, social bias in learning about foods is indirect and mediated by facilitation of feeding. In most respects, social biases in learning are similar in capuchins and callitrichids, except that callitrichids provide more specific behavioral cues to others about the availability and palatability of foods. Callitrichids generally are more tolerant toward group members and coordinate their activity in space and time more closely than capuchins do. These characteristics support stronger social biases in learning in callitrichids than in capuchins in some situations. On the other hand, callitrichids’ more limited range of manipulative behaviors, greater neophobia, and greater sensitivity to the risk of predation restricts what these monkeys learn in comparison with capuchins. We suggest that socially biased learning is always the collective outcome of interacting physical, social, and individual factors, and that differences across populations and species in social bias in learning reflect variations in all these dimensions. Progress in understanding socially biased learning in nonhuman species will be aided by the development of appropriately detailed models of the richly interconnected processes affecting learning.


Social Learning Japanese Macaque Capuchin Monkey Lion Tamarin Tufted Capuchin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of GeorgiaAthens
  2. 2.Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della CognizioneCNRRomeItaly

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