Socially learned habituation to human observers in wild chimpanzees

Liran Samuni, Roger Mundry, Joseph Terkel, Klaus Zuberbuehler, Cat Hobaiter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract Habituation to human observers is an essential tool in animal behaviour research. Habituation occurs when repeated and inconsequential exposure to a human observer gradually reduces an animal’s natural aversive response. Despite the importance of habituation, little is known about the psychological mechanisms facilitating it in wild ani- mals. Although animal learning theory offers some account, the patterns are more complex in natural than in laboratory settings, especially in large social groups in which individual experiences vary and individuals influ- ence each other. Here, we investigate the role of social learning during the habituation process of a wild chim- panzee group, the Waibira community of Budongo Forest, Uganda. Through post hoc hypothesis testing, we found that the immigration of two well-habituated, young females from the neighbouring Sonso community had a significant effect on the behaviour of non-habituated Waibira indi- viduals towards human observers, suggesting that habitu- ation is partially acquired via social learning.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Cognition
VolumeEarly online
Early online date6 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014


  • Female transfer
  • Observational conditioning
  • Dispersal
  • Culture
  • Social referencing
  • Social learning


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