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Journal Article

Human children rely more on social information than chimpanzees do


Van Leeuwen,  Edwin J. C.
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Developmental Psychology, University of Jena;

Call,  Josep
School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews;
Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Call, J., & Haun, D. (2014). Human children rely more on social information than chimpanzees do. Biology Letters, 10(11): 20140487. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0487.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0024-36E0-D
Human societies are characterized by more cultural diversity than chimpanzee communities. However, it is currently unclear what mechanism might be driving this difference. Because reliance on social information is a pivotal characteristic of culture, we investigated individual and social information reliance in children and chimpanzees. We repeatedly presented subjects with a reward-retrieval task on which they had collected conflicting individual and social information of equal accuracy in counterbalanced order. While both species relied mostly on their individual information, children but not chimpanzees searched for the reward at the socially demonstrated location more than at a random location. Moreover, only children used social information adaptively when individual knowledge on the location of the reward had not yet been obtained. Social information usage determines information transmission and in conjunction with mechanisms that create cultural variants, such as innovation, it facilitates diversity. Our results may help explain why humans are more culturally diversified than chimpanzees