Watch a Video Teach Old (and Wild) Monkeys a New Trick

Slate’s animal blog.
Sept. 3 2014 4:54 PM

Marmosets Can Learn New Tricks—by Watching a Video

Mvd6559106

Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

Finally, irrefutable evidence that not all TV is bad for your brain. In an attempt to determine whether monkeys can acquire new skills and behaviors from outside of their immediate social group, biologists used a video tutorial to train wild marmosets to open a box. The team, led by Tina Gunhold from the University of Vienna, first recorded already-trained marmosets opening the box (which contained a treat), then outfitted a tree with the box and video, and finally showed the recording to marmosets in the wild.

The video above shows the savvy marmosets in action. All phases of the experiment are on display—from the monkeys watching the video, to the implementation of what they've learned, to their gleeful retreat after they've secured their prize. In addition to being downright cute, it serves as an exceedingly fascinating display of animal ingenuity.

Advertisement

The results of the study were published in Biology Letters, with the authors stating that not only was the experiment mostly a success (only 12 of the 108 marmosets opened the box, but of those, 11 had watched the video), it was also, to their knowledge, "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."

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate video blogger.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.