Monkeys are not good at imitating

However, a controversy arose as to whether the Japanese macaque’s potato washing behavior was acquired by observational learning or by individual learning by trial and error.

The Italian primatologist Elisabetta Visalberghi noted that when Japanese macaques were released onto artificial sand beaches created in a Roman zoo, the potato-washing behavior eventually spontaneously developed. In the case of Koshima, it took four years for the behavior to spread throughout the group.

It is thought that monkeys do not copy their peers’ behavior, but rather understand the objective (“intent imitation”) and learn individually. Indiscriminate imitation—”monkey see, monkey do”—is, in fact, an ability that only humans possess.

■References (Books, papers, Web articles, etc.)
霊長類学を学ぶ人のために』  西田利貞・上原重男編 (世界思想社、1999)

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