Monkey See Monkey Do: Imitation and Tool Use in Cebus apella Monkeys, Human Children, and Infants

Anna Divis, The College of Wooster


Most studies state that Cebus apella monkeys do not have the ability to imitate a familiar human. There is some evidence that great apes can imitate, but most researchers are skeptical that capuchins have the ability to imitate. But a study by Fredman and Whiten (2008), suggested that Cebus monkeys might be able to imitate humans. The present study aimed to clarify their results and to extend that study by comparing Cebus apella monkeys imitation skills to preschool aged children and infants' imitation skills in the use of tools. Further, the study aimed to look at social influences and their affect on the groups imitation in the three groups. The results of the study suggest that Cebus apella monkeys were not able to imitate human models in a tool use task, but demonstrated that they are able to learn to perform tasks by watching human models. The results also showed that human children successfully imitated human models in some tasks, but not others and were influenced by a more familiar adult model than a stranger.