Monkey see, monkey do…

21 November, 2005 at 08:31 Leave a comment

Before anyone jumps down my throat, allow me to acknowledge that Orangutans are one of the great apes and most definitely not monkeys. Still, I couldn’t forego the punchy title for the mere sake of scientific accuracy.

An interview with Swiss Primatologist Carel van Schaik was recently included in an article entitled In search of the smart orangutan in the Health | Science section of the International Herald Tribune from 17 November, 2005. The focus of the piece is on Dr van Schaik’s field work researching the Sumatran Orangutan to uncover aspects of their social organization. The most interesting quote in the interview is related to the fact that Orangutans have big brains in common with humans along with “the ability – in fact, the need – to learn through social inputs?. Dr van Schaik’s position and findings are very much in line with my own research.

Social inputs are generally necessary to successful knowledge transfer of all but the most solitary pursuits. We as humans thrive on feedback loops indicative of observation and subsequent trial and error in order to successfully master both practical and empirical tasks. As our cousins, the Orangutans, demonstrate, social learning is embedded deep in our DNA.


Entry filed under: Anthropology.

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