Human children rely more on social information than chimpanzees do

Edwin J. C. van Leeuwen*, Josep Call, Daniel B. M. Haun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20140487
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number11
Early online date12 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • Culture
  • Social learning
  • Chimpanzees
  • Children
  • Decision-making
  • Cumulative culture
  • Pan-troglodytes
  • Learning strategies
  • Communities


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