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Biol Lett. 2008 Dec 23;4(6):638-40. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0410.

Helping behaviour and regard for others in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella).

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. jennifer.barnes@yale.edu

Abstract

Altruism is an evolutionary puzzle. To date, much debate has focused on whether helping others without regard to oneself is a uniquely human behaviour, with a variety of empirical studies demonstrating a lack of altruistic behaviour in chimpanzees even when the demands of behaving altruistically seem minimal. By contrast, a recent experiment has demonstrated that chimpanzees will help a human experimenter to obtain an out-of-reach object, irrespective of whether or not they are offered a reward for doing so, suggesting that the cognitions underlying altruistic behaviour may be highly sensitive to situational demands. Here, we examine the cognitive demands of other-regarding behaviour by testing the conditions under which primates more distantly related to humans--capuchin monkeys--help an experimenter to obtain an out-of-reach object. Like chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys helped human experimenters even in the absence of a reward, but capuchins systematically failed to take into account the perspective of others when they stood to obtain food for themselves. These results suggest an important role for perspective taking and inhibition in altruistic behaviour and seem to reflect a significant evolutionary development in the roots of altruism, and specifically in other-regarding behaviour, between the divergence of New World monkeys and apes.

PMID:
18812309
PMCID:
PMC2614170
DOI:
10.1098/rsbl.2008.0410
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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