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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2006 Jan;129(1):105-11.

Possible roles of consolation in captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).

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  • 1Centro Interdipartimentale Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio, Universit√† di Pisa, 56010 Calci, Italy.


Empathy is a necessary prerequisite for the occurrence of consolation. The term "consolation" contains a hypothesis about function, which is distress alleviation. The present study aims to confirm the occurrence of consolation in captive chimpanzees via the post-conflict/matched-control method (PC-MC) and to suggest its possible roles. We collected 273 PC-MC pairs in the group of Pan troglodytes housed in the ZooParc de Beauval (France). We confirmed the presence of consolatory contacts (mean level of consolation, 49.5% +/- 22.3% SEM) in the colony. Consolation rates were significantly higher than reconciliation levels (mean level of reconciliation, 28.9% +/- 16.8% SEM). The level of consolation was greater in the absence of reconciliation than in the presence of it, suggesting that consolation might be an alternative behavior. As friendship and relatedness did not influence the occurrence of consolation, they did not seem to be the best prerequisites for this behavioral mechanism, at least in this chimpanzee colony. Affinitive contacts with third parties were significantly more frequent when the victim called attention to itself during severe aggressions by screaming. These high-pitched sounds seem to be useful in eliciting aid from conspecifics, as occurs in young humans. The occurrence of consolation reduced the likelihood of further attacks among group-members. From this perspective, both victims and consolers most likely gain potential advantages by interacting with each other when aggression is particularly severe, reconciliation is not immediate, and consequently social stress reaches high levels.

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