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Studying culture in the laboratory in human and nonhuman primates

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The significance of the role of social learning in the natural behaviours of nonhuman primates has now been long recognised (e.g. McGrew, 1992). Much of my own research has developed from these foundations, driven by the motivation to probe further into the nature of primate social learning. I will discuss studies in which we have investigated how social influence might affect social behaviours in captive laboratory-housed monkeys (Watson & Caldwell, 2010) and whether such effects can be exploited to improve welfare (Watson et al., 2014). I will also discuss recent research aiming to investigate ontogenetic explanations of the mechanisms implicated in primate social learning (O’Sullivan & Caldwell, in prep). Finally, I will discuss experimental work we have carried out with humans, illustrating cumulative culture in the laboratory (e.g. Caldwell & Millen, 2009), and a future research programme which aims to determine the extent to which we can identify similar effects in nonhuman primates.

This talk is part of the Biological Anthropology Seminar Series series.

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