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Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(2):221-8.

Capuchin cognitive ecology: cooperation based on projected returns.

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Living Links, Yerkes Primate Center, Emory University, 954 N. Gatewood Road, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Stable cooperation requires that each party's pay-offs exceed those available through individual action. The present experimental study on brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) investigated if decisions about cooperation are (a) guided by the amount of competition expected to follow the cooperation, and (b) made instantaneously or only after a period of familiarization. Pairs of adult monkeys were presented with a mutualistic cooperative task with variable opportunities for resource monopolization (clumped versus dispersed rewards), and partner relationships (kin versus nonkin). After pre-training, each pair of monkeys (N=11) was subjected to six tests, consisting of 15 2 min trials each, with rewards available to both parties. Clumped reward distribution had an immediate negative effect on cooperation: this effect was visible right from the start, and remained visible even if clumped trials alternated with dispersed trials. The drop in cooperation was far more dramatic for nonkin than kin, which was explained by the tendency of dominant nonkin to claim more than half of the rewards under the clumped condition. The immediacy of responses suggests a decision-making process based on predicted outcome of cooperation. Decisions about cooperation thus take into account both the opportunity for and the likelihood of subsequent competition over the spoils.

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