CES logo.

The Cultural Evolution Society's Online Learning Series

Animal Cultures: Core Discoveries and New Horizons

Lecture 4: Major study groups – Primates and other terrestrial mammals

Professor Erica van de Waal, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

In this first 'major study group' lecture, I will present examples of the very extensive research done on social learning in primates and other terrestrial mammals. My lecture is in three sections:

  1. observations of culture in the wild
  2. experiments done in captivity
  3. field experiments

The aims of this lecture are to introduce key approaches to study cultural transmission in mammals highlight how commonly social learning occurs in social groups, and present perspectives for future research horizons.

Erica van de Waal

Lecture 4a: Observations of culture in the wild

Lecture 4b: Experiments done in captivity

Lecture 4c: Field experiments

Lecture slides (pdf)

Core (testable) readings

Watson, S. K., Botting, J., Whiten, A., & van de Waal, E. (2018). Culture and Selective Social Learning in Wild and Captive Primates. In Evolution of Primate Social Cognition (pp. 211-230). Springer, Cham.

A concise review on culture and social learning in primates, in both captive and wild settings

Whiten, A., & van de Waal, E. (2018). The pervasive role of social learning in primate lifetime development. Behavioral ecology and sociobiology, 72(5), 80.

A recent review of the importance of social learning in primates throughout the different life stages.

Further reading

Schuppli, C., & van Schaik, C. P. (2019). Animal cultures: how we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Evolutionary Human Sciences, 1

A controversial new empirical approach to estimating the scope of ape cultural repertoires.

Galef, Bennett G., and Elain E. Whiskin. “‘Conformity’ in Norway rats?.” Animal Behaviour 75.6 (2008): 2035-2039.

Experiments on rats, challenging primatologists’ approach to conformity.

Bono, A. E., Whiten, A., van Schaik, C., Krützen, M., Eichenberger, F., Schnider, A., & van de Waal, E. (2018). Payoff-and sex-biased social learning interact in a wild primate population. Current Biology, 28(17), 2800-2805.

Field experiments showing the scope of social learning in natural social groups.

Top of page

CES logo.
Templeton logo.
DySoC logo.