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, 12 (4), 587-97

Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes) Do Not Develop Contingent Reciprocity in an Experimental Task

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Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes) Do Not Develop Contingent Reciprocity in an Experimental Task

Sarah Frances Brosnan et al. Anim Cogn.

Abstract

Chimpanzees provide help to unrelated individuals in a broad range of situations. The pattern of helping within pairs suggests that contingent reciprocity may have been an important mechanism in the evolution of altruism in chimpanzees. However, correlational analyses of the cumulative pattern of interactions over time do not demonstrate that helping is contingent upon previous acts of altruism, as required by the theory of reciprocal altruism. Experimental studies provide a controlled approach to examine the importance of contingency in helping interactions. In this study, we evaluated whether chimpanzees would be more likely to provide food to a social partner from their home group if their partner had previously provided food for them. The chimpanzees manipulated a barpull apparatus in which actors could deliver rewards either to themselves and their partners or only to themselves. Our findings indicate that the chimpanzees' responses were not consistently influenced by the behavior of their partners in previous rounds. Only one of the 11 dyads that we tested demonstrated positive reciprocity. We conclude that contingent reciprocity does not spontaneously arise in experimental settings, despite the fact that patterns of behavior in the field indicate that individuals cooperate preferentially with reciprocating partners.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
A schematic of the barpull apparatus. Two lexan trays were positioned on top of the other, with a vertical separation of approximately 45 cm. The actor could choose to pull, using a rope handle (thick dotted lines) either of the two barpulls (gray bars) forward to receive food (black circles). The recipient only received food if the actor pulled the level baited on the recipient’s side. The position of the ropes alternated from trial to trial, so each individual had the opportunity to pull on alternate trials. The actor and recipient were next to each other, separated by a mesh partition (thin dotted line). Here, the donor is on the right side of the mesh partition, the prosocial option is provided on the top level and the selfish option is provided on the bottom level
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
The distribution and conditional probability of actor’s responses given a behavior of partner on previous trial, b number of 1/1 choices made by partner in previous two trials, c number of 1/1 choices made by partner in previous three trials. The bars indicate 95% confidence intervals based on assuming independence only among dyads
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
The frequency of prosocial (1/1) choices over the course of the six sessions. The dashed horizontal line at 0.5 indicates chance levels of choosing the prosocial option over the selfish (1/0) option. Note that Y-axis scale ranges only from 45 to 55%

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