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Studying animal innovation at the individual level: A ratings-based assessment in capuchin monkeys (Sapajus [Cebus] sp.).

Morton, F. Blake; Buchanan-Smith, Hannah M; Brosnan, Sarah F; Thierry, Bernard; Paukner, Annika; Essler, Jennifer L; Marcum, Christopher S; Lee, Phyllis C


Hannah M Buchanan-Smith

Sarah F Brosnan

Bernard Thierry

Annika Paukner

Jennifer L Essler

Christopher S Marcum

Phyllis C Lee


Large-scale studies of individual differences in innovative behaviour among nonhuman animals are rare because of logistical difficulties associated with obtaining observational data on a large number of innovative individuals across multiple locations. Here we take a different approach, using observer ratings to study individual differences in innovative behaviour in 127 brown capuchin monkeys (Sapajus [Cebus] sp.) from 15 social groups and 7 facilities. Capuchins were reliably rated by 1 to 7 raters (mean 3.2 ± 1.6 raters/monkey) on a 7-point Likert scale for levels of innovative behaviour, task motivation, sociality, and dominance. In a subsample, we demonstrate these ratings are valid: rated innovation predicted performance on a learning task, rated motivation predicted participation in the task, rated dominance predicted social rank based on win/loss aggressive outcomes, and rated sociality predicted the time that monkeys spent in close proximity to others. Across all 127 capuchins, individuals that were rated as being more innovative were significantly younger, more social, and more motivated to engage in tasks. Age, sociality, and task motivation all had independent effects on innovativeness, whereas sex, dominance, and group size were non-significant. Our findings are consistent with long-term behavioural observations of innovation in wild white-faced capuchins. Observer ratings may therefore be a valid tool for studies of animal innovation.


Morton, F. B., Buchanan-Smith, H. M., Brosnan, S. F., Thierry, B., Paukner, A., Essler, J. L., …Lee, P. C. (2021). Studying animal innovation at the individual level: A ratings-based assessment in capuchin monkeys (Sapajus [Cebus] sp.). Journal of Comparative Psychology,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 15, 2020
Online Publication Date Jan 18, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Oct 28, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 18, 2021
Journal Journal of Comparative Psychology
Print ISSN 1939-2087
Electronic ISSN 0735-7036
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL


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