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Institut für Evolutionäre Anthropologie (IEA)

Cognition: From social learning to cultural intelligence

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Callitrichids are small monkeys with small brains. Accordingly, their performance in task of physical cognition is modest. But they are keen social learners, and have ample opportunities for that: Surrounded by multiple caregivers, eager to share food and perhaps even information (teaching), youngsters have many tolerant role models. These monkeys thus provide important insights into how cooperative breeding could have catalyzed processes resulting in human cultural intelligence.

We are therefore interested in primate cognitive abilities, and whether there is something like general intelligence in nonhumans. Moreover, we work on identifying the cognitive mechanisms involved in social learning, coordinated joint action, and prosocial behaviors in the callitrichids.

Here are some selected references from this line of work

  • Burkart, J. M. & van Schaik, C. P. (2020) Marmoset prosociality is intentional. Animal Cognition
  • Schubiger, M. N. & Burkart, J. M. (2019). Does opportunistic testing bias cognitive performance in primates? Learning from drop-outs. PlosOne. 14(3), e0213727.
  • Damerius, L. A., Burkart, J. B., van Noordwijk, M., Haun, B. M. & van Schaik, C. P. (2019). Cognitive abilities in orangutans (Pongo abelii and Pongo pygmaeus). Intelligence 74, 3-11.
  • Miss, F. & Burkart, J. M. (2018). Co-representation during joint action in marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus). Psychological Science, 29, 984-995.
  • Burkart, J. M., Schubiger, M. N. & van Schaik, C. P. (2017). The evolution of general intelligence. Target article. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40, 1-67.
  • Heldstab, S. A., Kosonen, Z. K., Koski, S. E. Burkart, J. M., van Schaik, C. P., & Isler, K. Manipulation complexity in primates coevolved with brain size and terrestriality (2016) Scientific Reports, 6:24528.
  • Schubiger, M. N., Wüstholz, F. L., Wunder, A. & Burkart, J. M. (2015) High emotional reactivity towards an experimenter affects participation, but not performance, in cognitive tests with common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). Animal Cognition, 18, 701-712.
  • MacLean, E. L. et al. (2014). The Evolution of Self-Control. PNAS, 111 (20), 2140-2148. Kupferberg, A, Glasauer, S. & Burkart, J. M. (2013). Do robots have goals? How agent cues influence action understanding in nonhuman primates. Behavioral Brain Research, 246, 47-54.
  • Burkart, J. M., Kupferberg, A., Glasauer, S. & van Schaik, C. P. (2012) Even simple forms of social learning rely on intention attribution in marmoset monkeys. Journal of Comparative Psychology. 126 (2), 129-138.
  • van Schaik, C. P & Burkart, J. M. (2011). Social learning and evolution: The cultural intelligence hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 366, 1008-1016.