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Majority-biased transmission in chimpanzees and human children, but not orangutans

Haun, D. B. M., Rekers, Y., & Tomasello, M. (2012). Majority-biased transmission in chimpanzees and human children, but not orangutans. Current Biology, 22, 727-731. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.006.
Cultural transmission is a key component of human evolution. Two of humans' closest living relatives, chimpanzees and orangutans, have also been argued to transmit behavioral traditions across generations culturally [ [1], [2] and [3]], but how much the process might resemble the human process is still in large part unknown. One key phenomenon of human cultural transmission is majority-biased transmission: the increased likelihood for learners to end up not with the most frequent behavior but rather with the behavior demonstrated by most individuals. Here we show that chimpanzees and human children as young as 2 years of age, but not orangutans, are more likely to copy an action performed by three individuals, once each, than an action performed by one individual three times. The tendency to acquire the behaviors of the majority has been posited as key to the transmission of relatively safe, reliable, and productive behavioral strategies [ [4], [5], [6] and [7]] but has not previously been demonstrated in primates.
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