If only those behaviours evolve that increase the actor’s own survival and reproductive success, then it might come as a surprise that cooperative behaviours, i.e., providing benefits to others, are a widespread phenomenon. Many animals cooperate even with unrelated individuals in various contexts, like providing care or food. One possibility to explain these behaviours is reciprocity. Reciprocal cooperation, i.e., helping those that were helpful before, is a ubiquitous and important trait of human sociality. Still, the evolutionary origin of it is largely unclear, mainly because it is believed that other animals cannot exchange help reciprocally given its apparent cognitive complexity. Consequently, reciprocity is suggested to have evolved in the human lineage only. In contrast to this, recent findings have demonstrated reciprocal cooperation in various non-human animals. To understand the evolutionary origins of human reciprocity, and whether it is shared with other animals, we examined evidence for reciprocity in non-human primates, which are our closest living relatives. A thorough analysis of the findings showed that reciprocity is present and, for example, not confined to unrelated individuals, but that the choice of commodities can impact the likelihood of reciprocation. Based on this, we conclude that reciprocal cooperation is not restricted to humans. How do they do it then? We are proposing reciprocity can be achieved by different psychological mechanisms, varying in cognitive complexity. In order to deepen our understanding of the evolutionary origins of reciprocity in more general, future studies should investigate when and how reciprocity in non-human animals emerged and how it is maintained.
Period22 Feb 202324 Feb 2023
Event title18th Annual Meeting of the Ethological Society
Event typeConference
LocationBerlin, GermanyShow on map