Chapter 6 of 29 from Dr. Jane Goodall

Chimpanzee Development & Learning


Hear about the family bonds and infant development that Dr. Jane discovered while observing chimp families.

Topics include: Family & Parenting • Observational Learning • Developing Cultural Behaviors

Hear about the family bonds and infant development that Dr. Jane discovered while observing chimp families.

Topics include: Family & Parenting • Observational Learning • Developing Cultural Behaviors

Dr. Jane Goodall

Dr. Jane Goodall Teaches Conservation

In 29 lessons, Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.

Learn More


Take action

“There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance.” In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You’ll learn how to “act locally” and protect the planet.

Watch, listen, and learn as legendary naturalist Dr. Jane Goodall shares decades of her work and observations.

A downloadable workbook with lesson recaps is available in two versions: one for adults and one for families.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Jane will also critique select student work.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I have learned so much about animals and climate and people from this amazing teacher. She is an inspirational human being.

I loved this however the title is very misleading when you say it is a course on communication. There are a few moments where there are some insight to this however would not call this a class at all but rather a near documentary or Inside: Jane (who is amazing), but would rather you portray the video clips for what they are.

This masterclass should be made mandatory for everyone on this planet..

Holy moley. Dr. Goodall is amazing, and truly an inspiration. I want my daughter to see this. I want everyone's young daughters to see this.


A fellow student

I can listen to Dr. Jane over and over... I learn so much every time. I admire her greatly.

A fellow student

Very interesting discussion of their parenting skills. I think human fathers have to learn parenting skills from their wives.

Belinda M.

Very frustrating that Dr Jane Goodall, made so many observations, but it took even longer for them to be accepted, for example the behaviours differing from different regions. Fascinating listening to Dr. Jane.


It’s so fascinating how there are so many noteworthy parallels between chimps and humans, from similar parenting behaviors, both good and bad, to both of our species passing down discovered knowledge from generation to generation. I am looking forward to learning more about those similarities in this class, and am curious to see what Dr. Jane has to say next.

Mary H.

The elements of authority, patience, and lifelong learning are demonstrated. The Elements of Teaching is classic for teachers - fyi.

Katerina V.

This is all really fascinating, even though it seems so obvious to us today, because we have seen it many times on tv - when Dr. Goodall saw these behaviours for the first time, it must have been really exciting. And isn't it interesting how the human race became so arrogant believing that we are 'the top of the chain' when in fact we have so much to (re)learn from the natural world. And maybe if we adopted some of these (basic) behaviours, especially within relationships to each other, maybe the world would become a better place?

Svanfridur M.

It's very interesting thinking about the fundamental aspects of culture - a thing we see as uniquely human - and looking to see if other animals display these same fundamentals. I'm currently developing a theory about what fundamental parts of human nature shaped our current culture and society, and in finding these traits that all humans and human societies posses it' interesting to recognize some of these same fundamentals in chimps. Jane is often describing in chimps the very things I'm identifying as being the roots of human culture, and so it makes one wonder if what chimps have is really not that far from our own.

Mia S.

"If you go a little bit further south from Gombe, there's a culture of - they call it 'anting.' They get a short little twig, they poke it in and out of the hole, and the ants come swarming out and then they'll be picked off with the lips. Gombe chimps don't do that, although we have the same kind of ant. I did see an infant once, getting curious, because they're very curious - he was poking a stick into this hole and the ants came out, and his mother came along and ate them. Now, that did not turn into that behavior, but it could have. A food may be eaten in one place and not another. It's obvious that the children are learning these cultural preferences from the adults in the community, because I've seen a child pick up something new, and the mother will hit it away. Although eventually, a new tool-using or feeding preference does crop up - and it's always the young ones who start it, because they're the ones who experiment, they're more likely to try something different. This, to me, has been absolutely fascinating, because one definition of human culture is behavior that is passed from one generation to the next through observation learning - and if we accept that definition, then we can say that chimpanzees have primitive cultures. I was attached by a scientist when I first came out with this idea, because I hadn't been in the field very long. 'How dare I talk about chimpanzees having cultural behavior and so forth?' But they do - and now it's accepted."

Mia S.

"Yes, they are watching what the mother does, they are learning. They are understanding some of these techniques. The females actually do better - they learn more quickly, and that's because the young male is always looking around, he's worrying about dominance and that sort of thing, even at quite a young age. He's more outgoing. The female child is more likely ti be content and stay near Mom and watch her, so they get quite good earlier than most males. Of course I'm generalizing - there's always differences. Suddenly, Gremlin turned back, she grabbed hold of the infant, who wanted to follow his mother, and Gremlin wouldn't let him. She pulled him and pulled him - the mother had gone past a place where a whole lot of ticks had hatched out, tiny baby ticks, hundreds of them. In fact, the mother was covered in these little ticks, and Gremlin had noticed, and she pulled her baby brother out of the way. She'd pulled Galahad away and saved him from being covered by ticks. When you put all these chance observations together, you really get a good idea of how chimpanzees are thinking and thinking things out. Looking at chimp behaviors across Africa, there are different field study sites, and we know that in different parts of Africa, there are completely different tool-using behaviors. In Central and West Africa, they're using rocks to crack open hard-shelled nuts - sometimes the very same nuts that we get at Gombe, where the chimps don't eat them, and we find different cultural preferences, behaviors in the foods eaten in different places."

Mia S.

"That aspect of chimp behavior - the development of the child - has always really fascinated me. It was the first aspect of chimp behavior that fascinated science - not the ethologists,it was the human child psychologists who became fascinated by my observations of early childhood development. Their childhood period is long, it's much longer than most mammals. Our human children - we have a long childhood. The chimp child is suckling for five years, although gradually less often - is riding on the mother's back in travel, sharing her nest at night until the birth of the next baby. That's five years of close childhood dependency on the mother, and then after the next child is born, that older child is still traveling around and learning. This long childhood is important for them, as for us, in relation to observational learning. Learning about infant development and family relations was something that I was totally fascinated with. Figgan, who became the top-ranking male and was probably the most intelligent male Gombe's ever had, and reigned for 10 whole years; then there was Fifi, who has become the amazing mother; from the beginning, she was absolutely fascinated by this new baby, she was watching everything her mother did. We know today that sometimes a young one will pick up a stick or a rock and seem to be treating is as though it's an infant - grooming that rock like a doll. But the clearest thing for me was, in those early days, when somebody had given me a very realistic toy chimpanzee, I had taken it up to - in those days, we were feeding the chimpanzees bananas, which we don't do anymore - it was lying around in the tent; Fifi came and took this toy and started carrying the toy around just like Flo was carrying Flint, pressing it to her chest. She left it when she went away - it was about 10 days later, I saw Flo put Flint onto her back, because that's where they prefer to carry them instead of hanging onto the hair. To my amazement, Fifi took this toy chimp, immediately she put it on her back."


I discovered that the bonds between family members are very strong and very long-lasting. Chimpanzees can live in captivity over 60 years. In the wild, 50 is pretty old, because they get internal parasites. Their teeth get worn, and they get sick and so forth. But the mother has her first child when she's about 12, 13. She then only has one child, if the child lives, every five years on average. Sometimes it's shorter. When the next baby is born, that older child is five or six, it doesn't immediately leave and become independent. Not at all. That older child is still emotionally very dependent on the mother, still travels with her and the younger brother or sister, and so the bonds between mother and offspring get stronger, and the bonds develop between the brothers and the sisters. These bonds can last throughout life. So it was fascinating to find that in chimp society, just as in human society, there are good mothers and not so good mothers, very few actually bad mothers, because there's clearly non-adaptive. But the good mother is affectionate, she's protective, but she's not overprotective. She is playful, and, in fact, it was one of the things when I was watching the chimp mothers enjoying their infants that I vowed that when I had my own child, I would have fun with my child like they seemed to be having fun with theirs. But the most important thing was supportive, just like my mother. So if you're a supportive mother, and your infant starts playing with another infant, whose mother is dominant to yours, and a fight breaks out, and you scream, because you are hurt, the good mother, the supportive mother will run in to protect you, even though that means she's liable to be attacked by the dominant mother of the playmate. And we now know looking back over all the years that the offspring of the supportive mothers, the good mothers, tend to do better. So the female will be a better mother and a more successful mother, and the male is more likely to rise higher in the dominance hierarchy, because they feel secure in themselves because of this support they have. And as the family grows, then there is also support from the older brothers and sisters, and it's quite a close knit family unit for a great deal of the time. And that aspect of chimp behavior, the development of the child has always really fascinated me. And it was the first aspect of chimp behavior that fascinated science, not the ethologists. It was the human child psychologists like John Bowlby and Rene Spitz, who became fascinated by my observations of early childhood development. The childhood period is long. It's much longer than most mammals. Our human children, we have a long childhood. The chimp child is suckling for five years, although gradually less often, is riding on the mother's back in travel, although gradually less often, is sharing her nest at night until the birth of...