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Behav Sci (Basel). 2014 Apr 10;4(2):87-101. doi: 10.3390/bs4020087. eCollection 2014 Jun.

Insights into Intraspecies Variation in Primate Prosocial Behavior: Capuchins (Cebus apella) Fail to Show Prosociality on a Touchscreen Task.

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Department of Psychology, Yale University, 2 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, CT 06511, USA; E-Mail:


Over the past decade, many researchers have used food donation tasks to test whether nonhuman primates show human-like patterns of prosocial behavior in experimental settings. Although these tasks are elegant in their simplicity, performance within and across species is difficult to explain under a unified theoretical framework. Here, we attempt to better understand variation in prosociality by examining the circumstances that promote and hinder the expression of prosocial preferences. To this end, we tested whether capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)-a species that has previously demonstrated prosocial preferences-would behave prosocially using a novel touchscreen task. In contrast to previous studies, we found that capuchins as a group did not prosocially deliver food to a partner. Importantly however, data from control conditions revealed that subjects demonstrated limited understanding of the reward contingencies of the task. We also compared individuals' performance in the current study with their performance in a previously published prosociality study. We conclude by discussing how continuing to explore intraspecies variation in performance on prosocial tasks may help inform debates regarding the existence of other-regarding preferences in nonhuman species.


altruism; capuchins; donation tasks; non-human primates; prosociality

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