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Primates. 2009 Jan;50(1):3-11. doi: 10.1007/s10329-008-0122-1. Epub 2009 Jan 10.

Chimpanzee social intelligence: selfishness, altruism, and the mother-infant bond.

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Hayashibara Biochemical Laboratories, Inc., Great Ape Research Institute, 952-2 Nu, Tamano, Okayama, 706-0316, Japan.


To better understand the human mind from an evolutionary perspective, a great deal of research has focused on the closest living relative of humans, the chimpanzee, using various approaches, including studies of social intelligence. Here, I review recent research related to several aspects of social intelligence, including deception, understanding of perception and intention, social learning, trading, cooperation, and regard for others. Many studies have demonstrated that chimpanzees are proficient in using their social intelligence for selfish motives to benefit from their interactions with others. In contrast, it is not yet clear whether chimpanzees engage in prosocial behaviors that benefit others; however, chimpanzee mother-infant interactions indicate the possibility of such behaviors. Therefore, I propose that chimpanzees possess rudimentary traits of human mental competence not only in terms of theory of mind in a broader sense but also in terms of prosociality involving regard for others. Mother-infant interactions appear to be particularly important to understanding the manifestation of social intelligence from an evolutionary perspective.

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