Social Situations Aid Apes Memory

Society is a very important concept in psychology. Sometimes social learning is described as a second inheritance after the original genetic one. Animals of sufficient intelligence, mostly primates, are capable of seeing and copying the actions of another so that they don’t have to start from scratch in a development process if new ideas. A study has been recently published attempting to understand why social learning is so powerful when it comes to speed and recall of information. The apes that were experimented on were two gorillas and five chimpanzees and the experiment was quite simple…

The apes were either shown the video on the left or the video on the right below:
Figure 5

It is clear that the left video represents something social, from the perspective of the gorilla it is another ape showing it how to do something. The video on the right has not animal characteristics with the mechanical had staking the blocks instead. After one of the videos was shown a few seconds later the picture on the right appeared on the gorillas screen. If it could choose the correct tower then it was rewarded with fruit and over a number of experiments with different gorillas an observable trend developed. To add some more information a high detailed camera tracked the eye movement of the apes during the experiment so the attention and percentage time viewing areas of interest could be found. It was proved, as to be expected, that the apes found it much easier to recall what tower they had seen constructed when a social element was involved. It is believed that this is because creatures are more likely to place value in the work being done by another. In other words “it must be important if they’re doing it,” and so the goal directed actions of others are seen as important while inanimate objects are not. This research is important as it can tell us about the learning patterns of other apes such as young (or possibly not) humans in order to optimise our own educational techniques.

Paper links: Social Models Enhance Apes’ Memory for Novel Events


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