Sofia Ingrid Fredrika Forss

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Tuebingen, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9782

Approve Date

April 27, 2019

Project Title

Forss, Sofia (University of Tuebingen, Department for Pre-History and Quaternary Ecology) "Investigating environmental and social influences on primate curiosity"

Human behavior is characterized by the motivation to seek out new knowledge, often leading to discoveries or innovations. Already as infants, we are curious about the world around us. Paradoxically, scientific work on curiosity in non-human animals is surprisingly rare and we know remarkably little about the origins of curiosity and how the trait is distributed and expressed among non-human primates. Human habitats pose few direct dangers, providing us both time and safety to be curious. Non-human primates, on the other hand, are mostly busy searching for food, mating partners or shelter in natural habitats beset with predation pressure, pathogens, poisonous prey or plant toxins. Accordingly, curiosity comes at a high price and can have lethal consequences. Still, just like humans, primates can be highly motivated to gather new information about their environment, which can be rewarding when it favors food innovations or new knowledge of resources, habitats or social partners. The proposed project is designed to examine which conditions elicit curiosity in vervet monkeys. I will test effects of habitat risk (dangerous niche hypothesis) and the impact of sociality (social information hypothesis) on various curiosity traits in vervet monkeys from four different habitats: wild, urban, sanctuary and zoo.