Scientists have revealed that the affection and respect for elders might not just be good manners, it could be in our genes.
A monkey study led by Alban Lemasson at the University of Rennes in Paimpont, France reveals that respect for elders may be universal in primates.
Like humans, monkeys also pay special attention to their elders during conversation, apparently in order to garner some of the older animals' wisdom.
During the study, researchers recorded 823 vocal exchanges between eight female Campbell's monkeys, each of which was observed for 6 hours.
They found that the calls by older monkeys elicited more vocal responses than those by younger monkeys, regardless of their status within the group.
Seven-year-olds got twice as many responses from the rest of the group as 2-year olds.
"This is the first time scientists have shown systematically that primates other than humans pay special attention to the voices of their elders, and it suggests that respect for elders is part of our primate heritage," New Scientist magazine quoted Klaus Zuberbuhler of the School of Psychology at the University of St Andrews, UK as saying.
But why should younger monkeys pay more attention to what their elders have to say?
One possible explanation could be that being taken under the wing of a senior monkey may help younger animals forge friendships and climb the social ladder.
"Older monkeys play a key role in regulating the social network," said Lemasson.
Moreover, they know more about the forest.
"Elders know the forest better, they're better at spotting predators, and they're better at finding new food," said Zuberbuhler.
"The calls made by elders may play a key role in group cohesion and survival," he added.
In addition, the calls made by elders should carry more weight than those made by juveniles, as elders are better versed in the "rules" of conversation, Lemasson said.
The study appears in journal Biology Letters.