The effects of being watched on resource acquisition in chimpanzees and human children.

Journal Article

Animals react in many different ways to being watched by others. In the context of cooperation, many theories emphasize reputational effects: Individuals should cooperate more if other potential cooperators are watching. In the context of competition, individuals might want to show off their strength and prowess if other potential competitors are watching. In the current study, we observed chimpanzees and human children in three experimental conditions involving resource acquisition: Participants were either in the presence of a passive observer (observed condition), an active observer who engaged in the same task as the participant (competition condition), or in the presence of but not directly observed by a conspecific (mere presence condition). While both species worked to acquire more resources in the competition condition, children but not chimpanzees also worked to acquire more resources in the observer condition (compared to the mere presence condition). These results suggest evolutionary continuity with regard to competition-based observer effects, but an additional observer effect in young children, potentially arising from an evolutionary-based concern for cooperative reputation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Engelmann, JM; Herrmann, E; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • January 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 147 - 151

PubMed ID

  • 26376987

Pubmed Central ID

  • 26376987

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1435-9456

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1435-9448

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10071-015-0920-y


  • eng