Both human and non-human animals frequently deal with risky decisions in a social environment. Nevertheless, the influence of the social context on decision-making has been scarcely investigated. Here, we evaluated for the first time whether the presence of a conspecific influences risk preferences in rats and in tufted capuchin monkeys. Subjects received a series of choices between a constant, safe option and a variable, risky option, both alone (Alone condition) and when paired with a conspecific (Paired condition). The average payoff of the risky option was always lower than that of the safe option. Overall, the two species differed in their attitude towards risk: whereas rats were indifferent between options, capuchins exhibited a preference for the safe option. In both species, risk preferences changed in the Paired condition compared to the Alone condition, although in an opposite way. Whereas rats increased their risk preferences over time when paired with a conspecific, capuchins chose the risky option less in the Paired condition than in the Alone condition. Moreover, whereas anxiety-like behaviours decreased across sessions in rats, these behaviours where more represented in the Paired condition than in the Alone condition in capuchins. Thus, our findings extends to two distantly-related non-human species the evidence, so far available for human beings, that a decrease in anxiety corresponds to an increase in risk preferences, and vice versa. This suggests that the modulation of risk preferences by social influences observed in rats and capuchin monkeys may rely on a common, evolutionarily ancient, mechanism.
Keywords: Decision-making; Emotional responses; Gambling task; Rats; Risk preferences; Social influences; Tufted capuchin monkeys.
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