Chimpanzees Help Each Other Out—When Asked

chimptooltransferA team of researchers from Kyoto University have a new paper that provides “further evidence for altruistic helping in chimpanzees in the absence of direct personal gain or even immediate reciprocation.” But the scientists observed something interesting: Unlike humans, captive chimpanzees rarely offer help voluntary. Apparently, they tend to help each other only upon request.
In this case, the researchers set up experiments to see whether one chimp would give a tool to a second chimp that needed it to gain a reward (like a stick to reach a juice box). It turns out the first chimp will offer up the tool—even when there would be no immediate benefit to helping out—but usually only after the other chimp asks for help by reaching out an arm, clapping, or making noise.
As the researchers report:

Even when the chimpanzees observed their conspecific partner unsuccessfully struggle to reach the juice container without a stick tool, the tool possessor often failed to offer the tool voluntarily unless explicitly requested.

This type of requested altruism may be more economical than voluntary altruism, the researchers suggest, since it minimizes the chance that a chimpanzee will waste an effort by helping another chimp unnecessarily.

Category: Animal Studies

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One Response

  1. Eric Yuen says:

    To me this study is very interesting. In my opinion though, I feel that chimps could be very prideful like humans are in many ways. So with all that pride I feel other chimps refrain from assisting another chimp unless being asked upon as shown in the study. This is just my thought though without any formal background to the matter.

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