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Social animals have much to gain from observing and responding appropriately to the actions of their conspecific group members. This can in turn lead to the learning of novel behavior patterns (social learning) or to foraging, ranging, or social behavioral choices copied from fellow group members, which do not necessarily result in long-term learning, but at the time represent adaptive responses to environmental cues (public information use). In the current study, we developed a novel system for the study of public information use under fully automated conditions. We modified a classic single-subject laboratory paradigm--matching-to-sample (MTS)--and examined chimpanzees' ability to interpret and utilize cues provided by the behavior of a conspecific to solve the task. In Experiment 1, two subjects took turns on an identity MTS task, with one subject (the model) performing the first half of the trial and the other subject (the observer) completing the trial using the model's actions as discriminative cues. Both subjects performed above chance from the first session onwards. In Experiment 2, the subjects were tested on a symbolic version of the same MTS task, with one subject showing spontaneous transfer. Our study establishes a novel method for examining public information use within a highly controlled and automated setting.

Original publication




Journal article


Anim Cogn

Publication Date





893 - 902


Animals, Cues, Environment, Female, Learning, Male, Pan troglodytes, Problem Solving, Social Perception