Event Title

The Effect of Evolutionary Social History on Social Facilitation in Several Non-Human Animal Species

Faculty Advisor

Ellen Furlong

Graduation Year

2018

Location

Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

Start Date

21-4-2018 2:00 PM

End Date

21-4-2018 3:00 PM

Description

Social facilitation is the psychological phenomenon where humans tend to perform better on well-rehearsed tasks in the presence of an audience as opposed to when they are alone. However, for unfamiliar or difficult tasks, humans tend to perform worse when an audience is present. Investigations of this effect in non-human animals are limited, and it remains to be seen whether social facilitation occurs as a result of societal pressures -- for example, athlete-audience expectations -- or if social evolution has driven the development of social facilitation, i.e. to bolster group cohesion in social communities. I am exploring the latter theory: animals with an evolutionary history of complex social structures should demonstrate the social facilitation effect, whereas historically solitary species should not. To test these theories, we recruited several species with different evolutionary backgrounds (solitary: orangutans, tigers, grizzly bears; domesticated: domestic dogs; and social: New Guinea singing dogs, sea lions, seals, gorillas), and evaluated their performance on both easy and difficult tasks in the presence of no audience, a human audience, and a conspecific audience. Preliminary evidence suggests that there is an audience effect with social animals, and data analysis in non-social species is currently underway.

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Apr 21st, 2:00 PM Apr 21st, 3:00 PM

The Effect of Evolutionary Social History on Social Facilitation in Several Non-Human Animal Species

Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

Social facilitation is the psychological phenomenon where humans tend to perform better on well-rehearsed tasks in the presence of an audience as opposed to when they are alone. However, for unfamiliar or difficult tasks, humans tend to perform worse when an audience is present. Investigations of this effect in non-human animals are limited, and it remains to be seen whether social facilitation occurs as a result of societal pressures -- for example, athlete-audience expectations -- or if social evolution has driven the development of social facilitation, i.e. to bolster group cohesion in social communities. I am exploring the latter theory: animals with an evolutionary history of complex social structures should demonstrate the social facilitation effect, whereas historically solitary species should not. To test these theories, we recruited several species with different evolutionary backgrounds (solitary: orangutans, tigers, grizzly bears; domesticated: domestic dogs; and social: New Guinea singing dogs, sea lions, seals, gorillas), and evaluated their performance on both easy and difficult tasks in the presence of no audience, a human audience, and a conspecific audience. Preliminary evidence suggests that there is an audience effect with social animals, and data analysis in non-social species is currently underway.