Social Constraints on Learning in a Group of Baboons Reared in an Enclosure
A study of reversal-learning involving discrimination between two zones was conducted in a group of Baboons (Papio papio) living in an enclosure. The task was presented to the group as a whole and not to isolated individuals. The animals had to learn to forage near small poles to find corn which had been previously hidden at the bottom of a hole close to each pole. The results showed that only three dominant animals acquired the task. The rest of the group seemed to learn nothing but nevertheless could have access to the food as a result of animals’ foraging behavior. The latter did not eat all the unearthed grains but moved from one pole to the other in order to explore other holes ; thus corn was left for the other individuals. This study does not corroborate results obtained on the influence of dominance factors upon learning capacities but reveals the importance of such factors as a social constraint restricting the possibility of acquisition (in as much as revealed by performance) to some individuals among the group. On the other hand the study shows that one animal (the dominant female) acquired this reversal learning faster than both males and that this result was due to to a vicarious learning mechanism.