Chimpanzees coordinate in a negotiation game

Journal Article (Journal Article)

A crucially important aspect of human cooperation is the ability to negotiate to cooperative outcomes when interests over resources conflict. Although chimpanzees and other social species may negotiate conflicting interests regarding travel direction or activity timing, very little is known about their ability to negotiate conflicting preferences over food. In the current study, we presented pairs of chimpanzees with a choice between two cooperative tasks-one with equal payoffs (e.g., 5-5) and one with unequal payoffs (higher and lower than in the equal option, e.g., 10-1). This created a conflict of interests between partners with failure to work together on the same cooperative task resulting in no payoff for either partner. The chimpanzee pairs cooperated successfully in as many as 78-94% of the trials across experiments. Even though dominant chimpanzees preferred the unequal option (as they would obtain the largest payoff), subordinate chimpanzees were able to get their way (the equal option) in 22-56% of trials across conditions. Various analyses showed that subjects were both strategic and also cognizant of the strategies used by their partners. These results demonstrate that one of our two closest primate relatives, the chimpanzee, can settle conflicts of interest over resources in mutually satisfying ways-even without the social norms of equity, planned strategies of reciprocity, and the complex communication characteristic of human negotiation. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Melis, AP; Hare, B; Tomasello, M

Published Date

  • November 1, 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 30 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 381 - 392

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1090-5138

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2009.05.003

Citation Source

  • Scopus