Scottish scientists prove ‘monkey see, monkey do’ holds true
SCOTTISH scientists have proved the old adage “monkey see monkey do” is actually true, it was revealed yesterday.
Despite the popular phrase, experts previously thought only humans learned by imitation.
But new research at St Andrews University has shown that young monkeys also learn through copying one another.
A study by Professor Andrew Whiten and Dr Erica van de Waal of the Scottish Primate Research Group, showed vervet monkeys were able to discover new techniques for obtaining food by mimicking the behaviour of others within their group – just like human children.
Four different groups of monkeys were studied in sanctuaries in South Africa. Each group was offered an “artificial fruit” with a lid which could be popped off to reveal a treat inside.
The groups came up with three different ways to open it which spread to other group members, backing the theory that methods were passed on rather than learned individually.
Prof Whiten said: “Our research is revealing that primates other than humans share some of our own reliance on doing as others do in our group.
“People have assumed that monkeys copy everything they see – monkey see, monkey do. But research going back 20 years has failed to prove that. We believe we’ve come up with strong evidence of bodily imitation.
“Some people say that what makes us human is our cultures.
“These cultures are carried on by each generation copying the previous one. What we are seeing in these primates – our closest relatives – is a more basic ability to copy from others and pass on traditions.”
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