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Studies of Temperament in Simian primates with Implications for Socially Mediated Learning

Abstract

The functions of social learning concern the acquisition of skills and

information that enable individuals to adjust competently to their environments.

However, individuals differ in the extents to which they cope with, maintain and create

social and other environmental opportunities. Hence, it is relevant to consider

dispositions of individuals interactively - as with emotion, attention and activity; to

emphasise self regulatory behaviour, as with selective attention towards or away from

environmental conditions. These propensities facilitate positive and negative responses

that are associated with the uptake and use of skill and information from other

individuals. In these regards, the study of temperament has fertile but mainly

unexplored potential. Examples are given from studies of simian primates in which

differences in temperament have predictive implications for social learning. When

relatively fearful animals confront challenging situations, they are likely to avoid them

and become physiologically disturbed. Less fearful and active animals interact more,

and in emotionally more positive ways with other individuals. They are more likely to

maintain closer physical proximity to others, to attend more to what they are doing and

where. Hence, they have greater chances of facilitating advantageous responses - as in

feeding strategies. In the acquisition of social skills, less fearful animals engage in play

activities more than relatively fearful animals. Such interactions facilitate the

development of information about other individuals, and the quality of social behaviour

that is developed. These examples show the value of an integrative approach to

behavioural studies - in which behaviour is considered with other biological systems.

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