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Problem-solving in groups of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus): more than the sum of its parts


Sehner, Sandro; Willems, Erik P; Vinicus, Lucio; Migliano, Andrea B; van Schaik, Carel P; Burkart, Judith M (2022). Problem-solving in groups of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus): more than the sum of its parts. PNAS Nexus, 1(4):1-4.

Abstract

Human hypercooperativity and the emergence of division of labor enables us to solve problems not only effectively within a group but also collectively. Collective problem-solving occurs when groups perform better than the additive performance of separate individuals. Currently, it is unknown whether this is unique to humans. To investigate the evolutionary origin of collective problem-solving and potential precursors, we propose a continuum of group effects on problem-solving, from simple to complex ones, eventually culminating in collective problem-solving. We tested captive common marmosets with a series of problem-solving tasks, either alone or in a group. To test whether the performance of a group was more than the sum of its parts, we compared real groups to virtual groups (pooled scores of animals tested alone). Marmosets in real groups were both more likely to solve problems than marmosets within the virtual groups and to do so faster. Although individuals within real groups approached the problem faster, a reduction in neophobia was not sufficient to explain the greater success. Success within real groups arose because animals showed higher perseverance, especially after a fellow group member had found the solution in complex tasks. These results are consistent with the idea that group problem-solving evolved alongside a continuum, with performance improving beyond baseline as societies move from social tolerance to opportunities for diffusion of information to active exchange of information. We suggest that increasing interdependence and the adoption of cooperative breeding pushed our ancestors up this scale.

Abstract

Human hypercooperativity and the emergence of division of labor enables us to solve problems not only effectively within a group but also collectively. Collective problem-solving occurs when groups perform better than the additive performance of separate individuals. Currently, it is unknown whether this is unique to humans. To investigate the evolutionary origin of collective problem-solving and potential precursors, we propose a continuum of group effects on problem-solving, from simple to complex ones, eventually culminating in collective problem-solving. We tested captive common marmosets with a series of problem-solving tasks, either alone or in a group. To test whether the performance of a group was more than the sum of its parts, we compared real groups to virtual groups (pooled scores of animals tested alone). Marmosets in real groups were both more likely to solve problems than marmosets within the virtual groups and to do so faster. Although individuals within real groups approached the problem faster, a reduction in neophobia was not sufficient to explain the greater success. Success within real groups arose because animals showed higher perseverance, especially after a fellow group member had found the solution in complex tasks. These results are consistent with the idea that group problem-solving evolved alongside a continuum, with performance improving beyond baseline as societies move from social tolerance to opportunities for diffusion of information to active exchange of information. We suggest that increasing interdependence and the adoption of cooperative breeding pushed our ancestors up this scale.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Evolutionary Anthropology
Special Collections > Centers of Competence > Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language Evolution
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:8 October 2022
Deposited On:20 Oct 2022 06:09
Last Modified:27 Jun 2024 01:40
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:2752-6542
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/pnasnexus/pgac168
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_172979
  • : Project TitleAll together now- Cooperation beyond the dyad. A comparative perspective on the evolution of human hyper-cooperation
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)