Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


46th Annual Convention; Online; 2020

Event Details

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Paper Session #371
Why Monkeys Boop: Social Tolerance, Over "Knowledge," Antecedes Muzzle Contact in Wild Vervet Monkeys
Monday, May 25, 2020
11:30 AM–11:50 AM
Area: EAB
Chair: Christina Nord (University of Lethbridge)

Why Monkeys Boop: Social Tolerance, Over "Knowledge," Antecedes Muzzle Contact in Wild Vervet Monkeys

Domain: Basic Research
CHRISTINA NORD (University of Lethbridge), Tyler Bonnell (University of Lethbridge), Marcus Dostie (University of Lethbridge), S. Henzi (University of Lethbridge), Louise Barrett (University of Lethbridge)

Muzzle contact, where one animal brings its muzzle into close proximity of another, has often been hypothesized as a rather straight-forward means of socially-mediated food investigation. However, such a function has never been clearly demonstrated. Using 2,707 observations of muzzle contact occurring across three troops of wild vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), we tested this social learning hypothesis. While we found that muzzle contact can afford social learning, muzzle contact does not appear to be a behavior phylogenetically selected for a specialized social learning function, but rather a behavior mediated by operant learning which can then afford social learning. Rather than target specific individuals in order to gain information, we show that some animals serve as discriminative stimuli for approach for others, and that foraging animals serve as discriminative stimuli for food availability. We believe that animals engage in muzzle contact as a low-cost means of maintaining a baseline rate of information about their environment. We discuss these findings in light of the social learning literature, and highlight the need for similar analyses of behavioral function in the discussion of the evolution of social learning.




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