Chimps Choose Cooperation

March 2, 2017

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BUFFALO, NY - New research from the Department of Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation (ABEC) challenges the perception that humans are unique in their ability to cooperate.  Instead, the study’s author, Assistant Professor Malini C. Suchak, PhD, suggests “the roots of human cooperation are shared with chimpanzees.”

To determine if chimpanzees possess the same ability as humans, Suchak set up a cooperative task, that presented 11 chimpanzees with thousands of opportunities to pull cooperatively at an apparatus filled with rewards. 

“The setup was designed to provide ample opportunities for competition, aggression and freeloading,” explains Suchak.  “But when given the choice between competing or cooperating, the chimpanzees chose to cooperate five times more frequently.”

Luke Quarles ’17 assisted Suchak in her research, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences