Video demonstrations seed alternative problem-solving techniques in wild common marmosets.
Studies of social learning and tradition formation under field conditions have recently gained momentum, but suffer from the limited control of socio-ecological factors thought to be responsible for transmission patterns. The use of artificial visual stimuli is a potentially powerful tool to overcome some of these problems. Here, in a field experiment, we used video images of unfamiliar conspecifics performing virtual demonstrations of foraging techniques. We tested 12 family groups of wild common marmosets. Six groups received video demonstrations (footage of conspecifics either pulling a drawer open or pushing a lid upwards, in an 'artificial fruit'); the other six groups served as controls (exposed to a static image of a conspecific next to the fruit). Subjects in video groups were more manipulative and successful in opening the fruit than controls; they were also more likely to use the technique they had witnessed and thus could serve as live models for other family members. To our knowledge, this is the first study that used video demonstrations in the wild and demonstrated the potent force of social learning, even from unfamiliar conspecifics, under field conditions.