Tolerance for inequity may increase with social closeness in chimpanzees

Sarah F. Brosnan, Hillary C. Schiff, Frans B. M. de Waal

Abstract

Economic decision–making depends on our social environment. Humans tend to respond differently to inequity in close relationships, yet we know little about the potential for such variation in other species. We examine responses to inequity in several groups of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in a paradigm similar to that used previously in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). We demonstrate that, like capuchin monkeys, chimpanzees show a response to inequity of rewards that is based upon the partner receiving the reward rather than the presence of the reward alone. However, we also found a great amount of variation between groups tested, indicating that chimpanzees, like people, respond to inequity in a variable manner, which we speculate could be caused by such variables as group size, the social closeness of the group (as reflected in length of time that the group has been together) and group–specific traditions.

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