Chimpanzees Conform to Cultural Norms

Chimpanzee Drinking Beer

Conformity. It’s everywhere
you look in human society. We’re all copying each other like crazy all the
time, often without realising it. It’s well established by researchers – like
Solomon Asch in his famous experiment in 1955 – that people will disown the
evidence of their own eyes in the struggle to conform with other people. (You
can try a simple version of it here – damn it I conformed!)
But what evidence is there
from other species? A recent study has shown that chimpanzees conform to each
other just like humans – even when they don’t need to.
In this study, two different
social groupings of chimps were intially taught two different ways of getting
food out of container. Both worked equally well and both groups were eventually
exposed to both methods. Despite this, and after trying out the competing
technique for a short period, each social grouping stuck to its own method in
the long-term.
The experimenters argue that
this provides a parallel of the way human social groups establish a behavioural
‘norm’. For example forming an orderly queue at the post office is a culturally
transmitted norm of which we British are strangely proud. I’d like to see
chimps form a queue!
the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from
University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.