Chimps More Social than Selfish: New study

According to a recent University of Michigan study chimpanzees often make decisions faster that benefits others than themselves.

The study overview

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Harvard University examined how chimpanzees from the Republic of Congo think about cooperative decisions and the response time in situations involving prosocial behavior, which involves how one’s actions benefit others, such as giving time, effort or resources.

Method

The 40 chimpanzees completed tasks that assessed cooperation and self-control, including:

Donation task: The chimpanzee could provide food to both himself and a partner at no cost, or choose to only get food for himself. Chimpanzees were more likely to pick the prosocial option if they made a fast choice — as though their gut reaction was to cooperate with the partner. If they took longer to decide, however, they were more likely to keep the food for themselves.

Helping task: The chimpanzee could give a partner an object that was out of reach. Individual chimpanzees that were more likely to lend a hand were also the fastest to respond to their partner’s problem. In general, this supports situations in which cooperative individuals tend to make prosocial choices faster than selfish people.

Punishment task: The chimpanzee could stop a thief from taking a stolen resource by collapsing a table so the thief couldn’t get food. Like in the helping study, the chimpanzees who were most reactive to unfairness tended to collapse the table more quickly.

Results

In both the reward and punishment scenarios, the chimpanzees made prosocial choices more rapidly than those benefiting themselves.

“Ultimately, our results show that chimpanzee cooperation involves several cognitive mechanisms that parallel those seen in humans.” -Research report


 

Journal Reference: Alexandra G. Rosati, Lauren M. DiNicola, Joshua W. Buckholtz. Chimpanzee Cooperation Is Fast and Independent From Self-Control. Psychological Science, 2018; 095679761880004

Study DOI: 10.1177/0956797618800042 Overview


 

 

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