Understanding cultural variation and transmission in other primates can offer insight into the evolutionary origins of human culture. Many apparent traditions reported in wild primate populations involve social and communicative traditions, but these variants have been under-investigated in empirical work, relative to food and foraging oriented behaviours. My research focuses on investigating the socially mediated spread of social and communicative behaviours in captive primates to better understand the underlying processes of cultural transmission in wild primate populations.
During my PhD work I investigated social influence on social behaviours in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). An observational study indicated that affiliative calls made in neighbouring groups influence marmosets to perform a range of amicable behaviours. The next question was whether this effect could be manipulated to facilitate a change in patterns of behaviour. I found that playback of several hours daily of pre-recorded conspecific affiliative calls resulted in an increase across several amicable behaviours, consistent with a shift in overall social style.
My current research plans involve empirical investigation of the spread of social and communicative traditions in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata).
The welfare of primates in captivity is another major interest. The auditory and visual playback of affiliative behaviour to monkeys, in my previous research, has potential practical application to welfare through non-contact social enrichment. In a recent project I collaborated in the creation of a website aimed at promoting the welfare of common marmosets in captivity www.marmosetcare.com.
I carried out my PhD supervised by Dr. Christine Caldwell, at the University of Stirling, investigating social influence on social behaviours in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). Having completed my thesis, I remained in the department to collaborate with Professor Hannah M. Buchanan-Smith in the creation and publicity of an open-access resource, www.mamosetcare.com, providing detailed information on common marmoset behaviour and welfare in captivity. I will soon move to Japan to accept the position of Research Associate at CICASP.
Claire F. I. Watson, Ph. D.
Center for International Collaboration and Advanced Studies in Primatology
Kyoto University Primate Research Institute
41-2 Kanrin, Inuyama, Aichi, Japan 484-8506
Fax: +81 (0)568-61-1050