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The influence of task difficulty, social tolerance and model success on social learning in Barbary macaques

Garcia-Nisa, Ivan and Evans, Cara and Kendal, Rachel L. (2023) 'The influence of task difficulty, social tolerance and model success on social learning in Barbary macaques.', Scientific reports., 13 . p. 1176.


Despite playing a pivotal role in the inception of animal culture studies, macaque social learning is surprisingly understudied. Social learning is important to survival and influenced by dominance and affiliation in social animals. Individuals generally rely on social learning when individual learning is costly, and selectively use social learning strategies influencing what is learned and from whom. Here, we combined social learning experiments, using extractive foraging tasks, with network-based diffusion analysis (using various social relationships) to investigate the transmission of social information in free-ranging Barbary macaques. We also investigated the influence of task difficulty on reliance on social information and evidence for social learning strategies. Social learning was detected for the most difficult tasks only, with huddling relations outside task introductions, and observation networks during task introductions, predicting social transmission. For the most difficult task only, individuals appeared to employ a social learning strategy of copying the most successful demonstrator observed. Results indicate that high social tolerance represents social learning opportunities and influences social learning processes. The reliance of Barbary macaques on social learning, and cues of model-success supports the costly information hypothesis. Our study provides more statistical evidence to the previous claims indicative of culture in macaques.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:19 December 2022
Date deposited:25 January 2023
Date of first online publication:20 January 2023
Date first made open access:25 January 2023

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