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Chimpanzees are rational, not conformists
Date:12/13/2013

inserted. Over time, the majority chimpanzees observed that the minority chimpanzees received more peanuts for the same effort and all but one gradually switched to using this more profitable machine.

"Where chimpanzees do not readily change their behaviour under majority influences, they do change their behaviour when they can maximise their payoffs," Van Leeuwen says. "We conclude that chimpanzees may prefer persevering in successful and familiar strategies over adopting the equally effective strategy of the majority, but that chimpanzees find sufficient incentive in changing their behaviour when they can obtain higher rewards somewhere else." "So, it's peanuts over popularity" he jokingly adds.

The researchers emphasise that these results may be dependent upon the specific trade-offs that were created by the experimental design and that chimpanzees could act differently under the pressures of life in the wild. Van Leeuwen: "Conformity could still be a process guiding chimpanzees' behaviour. Chimpanzee females, for instance, disperse to other groups in the wild. For these females, it is of vital importance to integrate into the new group. Conformity to local (foraging) customs might help them to achieve this integration."


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Contact: Edwin van Leeuwen
Edwin.vanLeeuwen@mpi.nl
31-243-521-184
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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