Group-level cooperation often poses a social dilemma in which joint action may be difficult to achieve. Theoretical models and experimental work on humans show that social incentives, such as punishment of defectors and rewarding of cooperators, can promote cooperation in groups of unrelated individuals. Here, we demonstrate that these processes can operate in a non-human animal species, and be used to effectively promote the production of a public good. We took advantage of the fact that intergroup fights in vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops pygerythrus) are characterized by episodes of intergroup aggression with pauses in-between. During pauses, females selectively groomed males that had participated in the previous aggressive episode, but aggressed male group members that had not. In subsequent (i.e. future) episodes, males who had received either aggression or grooming participated above their personal base-line level. Therefore, female–male aggression and grooming both appear to function as social incentives that effectively promote male participation in intergroup fights. Importantly, females stood to gain much from recruiting males as the probability of winning intergroup fights was dependent on the number of active participants, relative to the number of fighters in the opposing group. Furthermore, females appear to maximize the benefits gained from recruiting males as they primarily used social incentives where and when high-quality food resources, which are the resources primarily limiting to female fitness, were at stake.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7q4r8.
- Received August 18, 2016.
- Accepted October 27, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.