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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Jeremy Kendal

Kendal, R.L., Custance, D., Kendal, J.R., Vale, G., Stoinski, T., Rakotomalala, N.I. & Rasaminanana, H. (2010). Evidence for social learning in wild lemurs (Lemur catta). Learning & Behavior 38(3): 220-234.

Author(s) from Durham


Interest in social learning has been fuelled by claims of ‘culture’ in wild animals. These remain controversial because alternative explanations to social learning, such as asocial learning or ecological differences, remain difficult to refute. Compared to in the laboratory, the study of social learning in natural contexts is in its infancy. Here, we apply two new statistical methods (Option Bias Analysis and Network Based Diffusion Analysis) for the first time to data from the wild, complemented by standard inferential statistics. Contrary to common thought regarding the cognitive abilities of prosimian primates, we find evidence consistent with social learning, within sub-groups, in the Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta), supporting the theory of directed social learning (Coussi-Korbel & Fragaszy, 1995). We also caution that, as the tool-box for capturing social learning in natural contexts grows, care is required in ensuring the methods employed are appropriate, in particular regarding social dynamics of study subjects.