Lack of conformity to new local dietary preferences in migrating captive chimpanzees

Gillian L. Vale, Sarah J. Davis, Erica van de Waal, Steven J. Schapiro, Susan P. Lambeth, Andrew Whiten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Conformity to the behavioural preferences of others can have powerful effects on intra-group behavioural homogeneity in humans, but evidence in animals remains minimal. In this study, we took advantage of circumstances in which individuals or pairs of captive chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, were “migrated” between groups, to investigate whether immigrants would conform to a new dietary population preference experienced in the group they entered, an effect suggested by recent fieldwork. Such ‘migratory-minority’ chimpanzees were trained to avoid one of two differently-coloured foods made unpalatable, before ‘migrating’ to, and then observing, a ‘local-majority’ group consume a different food colour. Both migratory-minority and local-majority chimpanzees displayed social learning, spending significantly more time consuming the previously unpalatable, but instead now edible, food, than did control chimpanzees who did not see immigrants eat this food, nor emigrate themselves. However, following the migration of migratory-minority chimpanzees, these control individuals and the local-majority chimpanzees tended to rely primarily upon personal information, consuming first the food they had earlier learned was palatable before sampling the alternative. Thus, chimpanzees did not engage in conformity in the context we tested; instead seeing others eat a previously unpalatable food led to socially learned and adaptive re-exploration of this now-safe option in both minority and majority participants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-144
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Early online date16 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Conformity
  • Culture
  • Cultural transmission biases
  • Social learning
  • Social learning strategies


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