Reciprocal cooperation - Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) as an example

Manon K. Schweinfurth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Many animals cooperate even with unrelated individuals in various contexts, like providing food or allogrooming others. One possibility to explain the evolution of such apparently altruistic behaviour is reciprocity. In reciprocal cooperative interactions, individuals help those partners that have been previously cooperative and therefore exchange favours. This conditional help follows rules like “I help you because you helped me.” These rules are often assumed to be so cognitively demanding that they may be limited to humans. In this chapter, I will shed light on the cognitive underpinnings of reciprocal cooperation by reviewing work on one of the yet best-studied animal in this research area, the Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus). Various studies have demonstrated that Norway rats reciprocally exchange different goods and services. They most likely form attitudes toward social partners that are based on the cooperation level of the last encounter, which they remember over long time spans. Cooperation decisions based on attitudes appear cognitively less complex than calculations of received and given favors. Thus, reciprocal cooperation based on this cognitive mechanism might be in fact more widespread among nonhuman animals than commonly believed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge handbook of animal cognition
EditorsAllison B. Kaufman, Josep Call, James C. Kaufman
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781108564113
ISBN (Print)9781108426749, 9781108445481
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2021

Publication series

NameCambridge handbooks in psychology


  • Norway rats
  • Cooperation
  • Reciprocity
  • Exchange
  • Help


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