Original Paper

Animal Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 611-623

Do chimpanzees learn reputation by observation? Evidence from direct and indirect experience with generous and selfish strangers

  • Francys SubiaulAffiliated withDepartment of Speech and Hearing Science, Mind, Brain and Evolution Cluster, The George Washington UniversityUniversity of Louisiana, Cognitive Evolution Group Email author 
  • , Jennifer VonkAffiliated withUniversity of Louisiana, Cognitive Evolution GroupDepartment of Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast
  • , Sanae Okamoto-BarthAffiliated withUniversity of Louisiana, Cognitive Evolution GroupDepartment of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University
  • , Jochen BarthAffiliated withUniversity of Louisiana, Cognitive Evolution GroupDepartment of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University

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Abstract

Can chimpanzees learn the reputation of strangers indirectly by observation? Or are such stable behavioral attributions made exclusively by first-person interactions? To address this question, we let seven chimpanzees observe unfamiliar humans either consistently give (generous donor) or refuse to give (selfish donor) food to a familiar human recipient (Experiments 1 and 2) and a conspecific (Experiment 3). While chimpanzees did not initially prefer to beg for food from the generous donor (Experiment 1), after continued opportunities to observe the same behavioral exchanges, four chimpanzees developed a preference for gesturing to the generous donor (Experiment 2), and transferred this preference to novel unfamiliar donor pairs, significantly preferring to beg from the novel generous donors on the first opportunity to do so. In Experiment 3, four chimpanzees observed novel selfish and generous acts directed toward other chimpanzees by human experimenters. During the first half of testing, three chimpanzees exhibited a preference for the novel generous donor on the first trial. These results demonstrate that chimpanzees can infer the reputation of strangers by eavesdropping on third-party interactions.

Keywords

Reputation Social learning Eavesdropping Third-party interactions Chimpanzees