Conflict resolution: Insights from chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


Objectives: Conflicts, from everyday arguments to world wars, are a fundamental aspect of human life, but little is known about our strategies for resolving them. One avenue to uncovering the origins of human conflict resolution is looking to our closest living relatives, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).
Design: Much like us, chimpanzees have to resolve conflicts, and this observational study sought to answer the following three questions: 1) How do chimpanzees resolve conflict? 2) Does conflict severity influence which reconciliatory behaviours follow it? 3) Are there factors which impact chimpanzees’ conflict resolution success, such as age, sex, dominance, or social bonds?
Methods: Conflicts were observed in a group of chimpanzees (n=15) living at Edinburgh Zoo. Alongside, the study recorded regular proximity scans measuring social bonds.
Results: Preliminary results suggest that chimpanzees resolve conflicts through re-affiliative behaviours like grooming, hugging, kissing, and offering food. In doing so, individuals repair valuable relationships, e.g., by sharing resources. More severe conflicts appear to be associated with more numerous and intimate reconciliatory behaviours, particularly when these involve valuable relationships. Additionally, certain demographic factors impact conflict resolution success. Males are more likely to be both involved in and resolve conflicts, and the less dominant conflict partner is more likely to initiate reconciliation. Individuals with closer social bonds are also more likely to reconcile after a conflict.
Conclusions: Comparison of these findings to humans offers valuable insight into which basic factors may influence our own conflict resolution and give insight into the evolutionary history of conflict resolution.
Period1 Apr 2023
Event titleBPS Scottish Undergraduate Conference
Event typeConference
LocationDundeeShow on map