Preschoolers' and Chimpanzees' Use of Source Reliability on Action-Based Tasks


One way to optimize social learning is to be selective when choosing from what sources to accept information. Preschoolers prefer to learn from previously accurate or competent sources, rather than from unreliable ones (e.g., Koenig, Clément, & Harris, 2004). The current study extends this work by comparing the ability to monitor an actor’s success in two species: children and chimpanzees. Members of both species saw two actors try to open containers, with different outcomes. Then, a forced-choice response was used to determine whether participants would pair the container with the previously successful actor. While preschoolers correctly elicited help from a previously successful actor, chimpanzees did not reliably select the type of object the actor could open. The current findings suggest a difference between humans and chimpanzees’ use of past source reliability, which may reflect or result from differences in their use of social learning.

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