Competition between human beings is restricted by a variety of flexible strategies depending on the situation, but it was believed that in terms of cooperation they were unique. A study by the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta (USA) challenges this perception and suggests that the roots of human cooperation are shared with other primates. The results of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Previous estimates described human cooperation as a 'great anomaly' and chimpanzees as animals with a predilection for competition over collaboration," says Malini Suchak, lead author of the research.
To determine if these animals possess the same ability as humans to outperform competition, the scientists created a cooperative task that mimicked the natural conditions of chimpanzees.
In an outdoor enclosure, the researchers gave the chimpanzees numerous opportunities to act cooperatively in a reward-rich system. In half of the testing sessions, two chimps had to participate to be successful, and in the other half, three chimps were needed.
While the set-up provides ample opportunities for competition and aggression, chimpanzees mostly performed cooperative acts - 3,565 times through 94 hour-long test sessions.
According to scientists, chimpanzees use a variety of strategies to overcome competition, which were measured by scientists from attempts to steal rewards.
Strategies to avoid competition
These strategies include chimpanzees confronting others, refusing to work in the presence of a freer, indicating that avoidance is an important component in managing competitive tendencies, and dominant chimpanzees intervening to help others against the freeloaders.
Such punishment of third parties occurred 14 times, mainly in response to aggression between the scrooge and the chimpanzee who was working cooperatively with others to obtain rewards.
For Suchak, chimpanzees “are quite good at preventing competition and favoring cooperation. In fact, the relationship between conflict and cooperation is quite similar in humans and chimpanzees. For the authors, the study shows striking similarities between species and gives another view of human evolution.
Frans de Waal, a researcher at the same center and co-author of the work adds: "In the literature it has been extended that human cooperation is unique. This is especially curious because the best clues we have about the evolution of cooperative behaviors come directly from the animal studies. The natural world is full of cooperation, from ants to killer whales. Our work is the first to show that our closest relatives know how to decrease competition and freeloaders. Cooperation wins! "
Bibliographic reference: Malini Suchaka et al. "How chimpanzees cooperate in a competitive world" PNAS.Ecoportal.net