Theft in an ultimatum game: chimpanzees and bonobos are insensitive to unfairness

Ingrid Kaiser, Keith Jensen*, Josep Call, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Humans, but not chimpanzees, punish unfair offers in ultimatum games, suggesting that fairness concerns evolved sometime after the split between the lineages that gave rise to Homo and Pan. However, nothing is known about fairness concerns in the other Pan species, bonobos. Furthermore, apes do not typically offer food to others, but they do react against theft. We presented a novel game, the ultimatum theft game, to both of our closest living relatives. Bonobos and chimpanzee 'proposers' consistently stole food from the responders' portions, but the responders did not reject any non-zero offer. These results support the interpretation that the human sense of fairness is a derived trait.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)942-945
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Volume8
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2012

Keywords

  • inequity
  • fairness
  • ultimatum game
  • punishment
  • chimpanzees
  • bonobos
  • UNRELATED GROUP MEMBERS
  • INEQUITY AVERSE
  • TOLERANCE
  • ALTRUISM
  • EXCHANGE
  • APES

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