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The Effects of Cumulative Experience On Responses To Novel Objects in Young Isolation-Reared Chimpanzees

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image of Behaviour

I. Reactions toward small novel objects were studied in two highly cautious isolation-reared chimpanzees. 2. In Experiment I the subjects were presented with 75 different objects. Grasping increased from near-zero-level to high levels, and stereotyped, autistic activities decreased over the 25 test days. At the close of the experiment the subjects spent most of their time in object-contact. This transition from caution to play was more rapid for objects preexposed 16 hrs vs completely novel objects, and for objects constructed of wood vs objects constructed of other materials. 3. Experiment 2 tested whether responsiveness would now be maintained at different levels by different classes of stimuli. It was found that the subjects would grasp a stuffed toy almost incessantly and stereotype infrequently; but with a wood block, grasping decreased and stereotypy increased across several daily trials. The latter decrease of grasping and increase of stereotypy can be interpreted as a "satiation effect". 4. Experiment 3 tested whether specific types of manipulatory reaction would now vary as a function of specific objects; the familiar stuffed toy and wood block were contrasted with three other, novel objects. It was found that behaviour patterns were somewhat different for each object; e.g., the familiar stuffed toy received the highest scores for grasping and draping, a novel stuffed toy received the highest score for hitting, and a novel wood block with holes drilled in it received the highest score for poking. 5. The "innate response" to novelty in these animals thus consisted of a protracted sequence of behaviour patterns, which was determined by interactions between the properties of stimuli and the subject's experience with the same or similar stimulus objects. 6. Over all three experiments, grasping and stereotypy were reciprocally related to each other. With simple objects such as wood blocks, both measures appeared to be curvilinear functions of experience.

Affiliations: 1: Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, Orange Park, Florida


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