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Learning from Communication Versus Observation: Great Apes Ignore Theirobservation When it Contradicts Communicatively Transmitted Information

41 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2021 Publication Status: Review Complete

See all articles by Hanna Marno

Hanna Marno

Central European University (CEU) - Department of Cognitive Science

Christoph Johannes Völter

University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna - Comparative Cognition

Brandon Tinklenberg

York University - Department of Philosophy

Dan Sperber

Central European University (CEU)

Josep Call

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

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Abstract

When human infants are intentionally addressed by others, they tend to interpret theinformation communicated as being relevant to them and worth acquiring. For humans, thisattribution of relevance leads to a preference to learn from communication, making itpossible to accumulate knowledge over generations. Great apes are sensitive tocommunicative cues, but do these cues also activate an expectation of relevance? In anobservational learning paradigm, we demonstrated how to operate on a device. When apeshad the opportunity to choose between an efficient and an inefficient method in the baselineconditions, the majority of them chose the efficient method. However, when the inefficientmethod was demonstrated in a communicative way, they failed to prioritize efficiency,even though they were equally attentive in both conditions. This suggests that the ostensivedemonstration elicited an expectation of relevance that modified apes’ interpretation of thesituation, potentially leading to a preference to learn from communication, as humanchildren do.

Suggested Citation

Marno, Hanna and Völter, Christoph Johannes and Tinklenberg, Brandon and Sperber, Dan and Call, Josep, Learning from Communication Versus Observation: Great Apes Ignore Theirobservation When it Contradicts Communicatively Transmitted Information. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3985165 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3985165
This version of the paper has not been formally peer reviewed.

Hanna Marno (Contact Author)

Central European University (CEU) - Department of Cognitive Science ( email )

Hungary

Christoph Johannes Völter

University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna - Comparative Cognition ( email )

Vienna
Austria

Brandon Tinklenberg

York University - Department of Philosophy ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada

Dan Sperber

Central European University (CEU) ( email )

Nador utca 9
Budapest, H-1051
Hungary

Josep Call

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology ( email )

Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
Bonn, 53113
Germany

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