Urinary oxytocin levels in relation to post-conflict affiliations in wild male chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus)

Anna Preis, Liran Samuni, Alexander Mielke, Tobias Deschner, C Crockford, RM Wittig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many animals living in social groups have evolved behaviors to resolve conflicts between group members, behaviors thought crucial for maintaining stable group life. Several hypotheses, based mainly on observational data, aim to explain how post-conflict (PC) affiliations, such as reconciliation and consolation, resolve conflicts by restoring relationships and/or alleviating anxiety. To examine a potential endocrinological mechanism of PC affiliations, we used an experimental-like procedure to investigate whether the oxytocinergic system is activated during naturally observed reconciliations, receiving bystander PC affiliations and aggressions not followed by PC affiliations in wild male chimpanzees. We compared urinary oxytocin (uOT) levels after reconciliations, receiving bystander PC affiliations or aggressions without affiliations with two control conditions: affiliations without previous aggression and after time periods without social interactions. We furthermore tested the ‘valuable relationship’ hypothesis of reconciliation, as well as the influence of relationship quality between individuals engaged in each of the three behavioral conditions involving aggression on uOT levels. We found that the probability to reconcile a conflict increased with increasing relationship quality between opponents, thus our results support the ‘valuable relationship’ hypothesis. However, relationship quality did not influence uOT levels, while behavioral condition had a significant effect on uOT levels. uOT levels after reconciliations, receiving bystander PC affiliations and affiliations not related to conflicts were higher than after aggressions alone and time periods without social interactions. Overall, our results indicate that the oxytocinergic system is activated during affiliative interactions, whether occurring as reconciliation, bystander PC affiliation or affiliation alone. We conclude that the oxytocinergic system, in addition to building and maintaining social relationships, also takes part in repairing them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-40
Number of pages13
JournalHormones and Behavior
Volume105
Early online date26 Jul 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018

Keywords

  • Bystander affiliation
  • Relationship repair
  • Oxytocin
  • Reconciliation

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