Reconciliation, consolation and postconflict behavioral specificity in chimpanzees

Am J Primatol. 2008 Dec;70(12):1114-23. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20608.


Conflicts of interest arise regularly in the lives of all group-living animals and may escalate into aggressive conflicts. The costs of aggressive escalation can be reduced through peaceful postconflict interactions. This study investigated the postconflict behavior of 22 adult chimpanzees at Chester Zoo. The occurrence of reconciliation, i.e. the postconflict affiliative reunion between conflict opponents, and consolation, i.e. a postconflict affiliative interaction directed from a third party to the recipient of aggression, were demonstrated. Consolation was more likely to occur in the absence of reconciliation than after reconciliation, and reconciliation was more likely to occur in the absence of consolation than after consolation, supporting the hypothesis that consolation acts as a substitute for reconciliation when the latter fails to occur. Evidence for behavioral specificity, i.e. context-specific use of certain behaviors, was found for both reconciliation and consolation, which, along with high conciliatory tendencies, suggests an explicit style of postconflict behavior in the study subjects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Zoo / psychology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Empathy*
  • Linear Models
  • Pan troglodytes / psychology*
  • Social Behavior*