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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 9;105(36):13685-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0807060105. Epub 2008 Aug 29.

Giving is self-rewarding for monkeys.

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Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30329, USA.


Helping and sharing among humans is often motivated by empathy and accompanied by a sense of satisfaction. To determine whether similar self-rewarding mechanisms may underpin assistance among nonhuman primates, eight female brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) underwent testing in a simple choice paradigm. Paired with a partner, subjects could select either a "selfish" option that rewarded only themselves, or a "prosocial" option that rewarded both of them. Subjects systematically favored the prosocial option provided their partner was a) familiar, b) visible, and c) receiving rewards of equal value. Prosocial tendencies increased with social closeness, being lowest toward strangers and highest toward kin. That the monkeys understood the options was suggested by greater orientation to the partner during prosocial than selfish choices. Prosocial preferences were reduced by inequity, when the partner received a superior reward. If the view between both monkeys was blocked, choices became strikingly selfish. Thus, under certain conditions, delivering benefits to others seems gratifying to nonhuman primates.

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