Data from: Reflections of the social environment in chimpanzee memory: applying rational analysis beyond humans

  • Jeffrey R. Stevens (Contributor)
  • Lael J. Schooler (Contributor)
  • Julian N. Marewski (Contributor)
  • Ian Gilby (Contributor)



In cognitive science, the rational analysis framework allows modelling of how physical and social environments impose information-processing demands onto cognitive systems. In humans, for example, past social contact among individuals predicts their future contact with linear and power functions. These features of the human environment constrain the optimal way to remember information and probably shape how memory records are retained and retrieved. We offer a primer on how biologists can apply rational analysis to study animal behaviour. Using chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) as a case study, we modelled 19 years of observational data on their social contact patterns. Much like humans, the frequency of past encounters in chimpanzees linearly predicted future encounters, and the recency of past encounters predicted future encounters with a power function. Consistent with the rational analyses carried out for human memory, these findings suggest that chimpanzee memory performance should reflect those environmental regularities. In re-analysing existing chimpanzee memory data, we found that chimpanzee memory patterns mirrored their social contact patterns. Our findings hint that human and chimpanzee memory systems may have evolved to solve similar information-processing problems. Overall, rational analysis offers novel theoretical and methodological avenues for the comparative study of cognition.,stevens_etal_2016_RSOSThese data were extracted from 19 years of data from the Kanyawara community of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda from July 1988 to June 2006. The data rows are dyads of chimpanzees and columns are days. Cell values represent whether the dyad was observed together (1) or not (0) on that day. If neither chimpanzee was observed for more than 70% of the day or if the chimpanzees could not possibly have been in contact (e.g., at least one was not living), the values are blank.,
Date made availableAug 1 2016

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