“Consequently,” she added, “young individuals have access to a big ‘information network’ within the family and ample opportunities to learn from both parents and siblings.”
Instructional videos have already been used as enrichment for captive animals, such as chimpanzees, gorillas, zebra finches, and Japanese macaques. Differences in visual systems can affect the success of such efforts, since some animals literally see the world differently than humans do. Marmosets, for example, do not process colors precisely the same way, so the researchers presented the videos in grey scale.
Some animals might also think that the demonstrator on the screen is a live, present animal that could pose a threat. For the new study, however, the marmosets seemed to know that the demonstrators were not there in the flesh.
Scottish Primate Research Group member Erica van de Waal, commenting from a savanna full of vervet monkeys, told Discovery News that the “instructional video technique is great,” especially from a research standpoint, since it gives scientists a better look at how animals learn.
Charles Snowdon, a professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, agrees with van de Waal. He also said, “It is a major advance to demonstrate that video techniques can facilitate social learning in the wild.”
“The implications are several,” he continued. “For example it is important to teach rehabilitated or reintroduced animals what foods are valuable and how predators are to be avoided. This method can facilitate that teaching by understanding better what variables are important to wild and to reintroduced animals in being able to learn how to forage, on what foods to forage and how to recognize and avoid predators.”
“Thus, there are several important applications of this method for future work.”