Chimpanzees and children avoid mutual defection in a social dilemma

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Cooperation often comes with the temptation to defect and benefit at the cost of others. This tension between cooperation and defection is best captured in social dilemmas like the Prisoner's Dilemma. Adult humans have specific strategies to maintain cooperation during Prisoner's Dilemma interactions. Yet, little is known about the ontogenetic and phylogenetic origins of human decision-making strategies in conflict scenarios. To shed light on this question, we compared the strategies used by chimpanzees and 5-year old children to overcome a social dilemma. In our task, waiting for the partner to act first produced the best results for the subject. Alternatively, they could mutually cooperate and divide the rewards. Our findings indicate that the two species differed substantially in their strategies to solve the task. Chimpanzees became more strategic across the study period by waiting longer to act in the social dilemma. Children developed a more efficient strategy of taking turns to reciprocate their rewards. Moreover, children used specific types of communication to coordinate with their partners. These results suggest that while both species behaved strategically to overcome a conflict situation, only children engaged in active cooperation to solve a social dilemma.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sánchez-Amaro, A; Duguid, S; Call, J; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • January 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 40 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 46 - 54

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1090-5138

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2018.07.004

Citation Source

  • Scopus