Chimpanzees do not take advantage of very low cost opportunities to deliver food to unrelated group members

Jennifer Vonk, Sarah F. Brosnan, Joan B. Silk, Joseph Henrich, Amanda S. Richardson, Susan P. Lambeth, Steven J. Schapiro, Daniel J. Povinelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


We conducted experiments on two populations of chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, to determine whether they would take advantage of opportunities to provide food rewards to familiar group members at little cost to themselves. In both of the experiments described here, chimpanzees were able to deliver identical rewards to themselves and to other members of their social groups. We compared the chimpanzees' behaviour when they were paired with another chimpanzee and when they were alone. If chimpanzees are motivated to provide benefits to others, they are expected to consistently deliver rewards to others and to distinguish between the partner-present and partner-absent conditions. Results from both experiments indicate that our subjects were largely indifferent to the benefits they could provide to others. They were less likely to provide rewards to potential recipients as the experiment progressed, and all but one of the 18 subjects were as likely to deliver rewards to an empty enclosure as to an enclosure housing another chimpanzee. These results, in conjunction with similar results obtained in previous experiments, suggest that chimpanzees are not motivated by prosocial sentiments to provide food rewards to other group members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1757-1770
Number of pages14
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Pan troglodytes
  • altruism
  • chimpanzee
  • other-regarding preference
  • prosocial behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Chimpanzees do not take advantage of very low cost opportunities to deliver food to unrelated group members'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this