Chimps can match humans in kindness

August 10th, 2011 - 12:56 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 10 (IANS) Chimps can be as kind and compassionate as their human counterparts, a finding that overturns past assumptions about altruism being limited only to human beings.

Previous research had described chimps as being selfish, who pretended to be generous when tricked into doing so.

Chimps are known to help one another and show empathy, reassuring distressed members of their group, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.

A team at the world famous Yerkes National Primate Research Centre at Emory University, Atlanta, US set designed a simple test of chimp’s charity, according to the Daily Mail.

They offered seven adult female chimps a choice between two similar actions. One action rewarded both the lead participant, or ‘actor’, and a partner.

The other rewarded only the actor. A series of trials were conducted in which ‘actors’ chose between different coloured tokens from a bin.

One coloured token could be exchanged with an experimenter for edible treats, pieces of banana, for both members of a pair. The other, selfish, option was to choose a colour that only yielded a personal reward.

All seven chimps showed an overwhelming preference for ‘prosocial’ or generous, choice. It made no significant difference whether or not ‘actors’ and ‘partners’ were related.

But partners hoping for a share-out were less likely to get anything if they made a fuss, begged or spat water at those exchanging the tokens.

“We were excited to find female after female chose the option that gave both her and her partner food,” said Victoria Horner from Emory, who led the study.

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