Atroop of Japanese macaques living on an island was being studied by scientists, who fed the monkeys by throwing pieces of sweet potatoes onto the beach from a passing boat. The monkeys tried to brush the sand off the sweet potatoes, but they were still gritty. One day a young female monkey began taking her sweet potatoes to the water and washing them. Soon her siblings and other juveniles in her play group imitated her new behavior. Next their mothers began washing their potatoes. No adult males imitated this behavior, but young males learned the behavior from their mothers and their siblings.
The scientists were fascinated by the way the creative, insightful behavior of one juvenile female spread through the population, so they presented the monkeys with a new challenge: They threw wheat onto the beach. Picking grains of wheat out of the sand was tedious and difficult. The same juvenile female came up with a solution: She carried handfuls of sand and grain to the water and threw them in. The sand sank but the grain floated, enabling her to skim it off the surface and eat it. This behavior spread through the population in the same way potato washing did—first to other juveniles, then to mothers, and then from mothers to both their male and female offspring.
The macaques now routinely wash their food. They play in the water, which they did not do before, and they have added some marine items to their diet. Clearly, this population of monkeys has invented new behaviors that have spread by imitative learning and have become traditions in the population. One could say that they have acquired a culture: a set of behaviors shared by members of the population and transmitted by learned traditions.
The reason this study of macaques is so interesting is that it erodes what once seemed to be a clear distinction between human behavior and the behavior of other animals. The behavior of most animals is largely determined by inheritance, with learning playing a relatively minor role. In contrast, most human behaviors are acquired through cultural traditions and learning. However, genetic components contributing to human personality traits and predispositions are also being demonstrated. These observations,
Learned Behaviors Shared by a Population Become a Culture In the space of only a few generations, a population of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) learned and transmitted a set of behaviors that included washing food, playing in the water, and eating marine food items—a new "culture" of water-related behaviors.
along with the fact that other primates can invent novel behaviors and pass them on culturally, show that there is no absolute dividing line between human and animal behavior.
We will begin this chapter with descriptions of some classic studies of behavior that is largely shaped by inheritance, but to varying degrees is modified by experience. The rest of the chapter will be devoted to discussions of the physiological mechanisms underlying behavior, the development of behavior, and the modifiability of behavior. Throughout the chapter, use what you read to raise your own questions about human behavior, to which we will return at the end of the chapter.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.