Coordination strategies of chimpanzees and human children in a Stag Hunt game

Proc Biol Sci. 2014 Dec 7;281(1796):20141973. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1973.


Much of human cooperation takes place in mutualistic contexts in which the main challenge for individuals is how to coordinate decisions. In the current studies, we compared the abilities of chimpanzees and young children to coordinate with a partner in two versions of a Stag Hunt game. When risks were low (the hare was of low value) and information was cheap (the partner's behaviour was readily observable), partners of both species were able to successfully coordinate on the higher value stag more than 90% of the time. By contrast, when the risks were raised and observing the partner was more difficult, the chimpanzees became less successful, whereas the children compensated, and so remained highly successful, by communicating more often and more specifically. This pattern of results is consistent with the hypothesis that humans evolved unique skills of coordination and communication in the context of especially risky coordination problems.

Keywords: Stag Hunt; children; chimpanzees; communication; coordination.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Female
  • Game Theory*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pan troglodytes / psychology*

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.7825C