Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 54, Issue 5, pp 491–504 | Cite as

“Decision-making” in conflicts of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes): an extension of the Relational Model

  • Roman Martin WittigEmail author
  • Christophe Boesch
Original Article


>We examined the “decision-making” process of aggressive interactions within a community of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in the Taï National Park, Côte d’Ivoire (West Africa). Costs and benefits were investigated for 876 dyadic aggressive interactions among 18 adults (including 4 independent adolescents) of either sex. An extended version of the Relational Model was developed to describe the dynamics of the “decision-making” process in Taï chimpanzees, which suggests that the net benefit determines the occurrence of conflicts. Both sexes fought more frequently for the resources that were most important to them, food for females and social contexts for males. Individuals used two different strategies according to their likelihood of winning the aggressive interaction, determined by the dominance relationship of the conflict partners. Dominant initiators had longer and more intense aggressive interactions, but they limited their social disadvantages by fighting non-cooperative partners. Subordinate initiators had shorter and less intense aggressive interactions, but risked more social costs, which they could reduce afterwards by reconciliation. Both strategies included a positive overall net benefit. The extended Relational Model fits the complexity of wild chimpanzee conflicts and allows for more flexibility in the “decision-making” compared to the original version.


Extended Relational Model Conflict management Likelihood of winning Aggressive interactions Chimpanzees 



We thank the “Ministère de la Recherche Scientifique”, the “Ministère de l’Agriculture et des Ressource Animales” of Côte d’Ivoire, the director of the Taï National Park and the “Projet Autonome pour la Conservation du Parc National de Taï” for permission to conduct this study. We also thank the “Centre Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique” in Abidjan, the staff of the “Station du Centre de Recherche en Ecologie” and of the “Projet Chimpanzé Taï”, especially Kpazahi Honora Néné and Nohon Gregoire Kohon, for support in Côte d’Ivoire. We are grateful to Gunter Weiss and Daniel Stahl for their statistical advice, and to Filippo Aureli, Josep Call, Nadia Corp, Diane Doran, Julia Fisher, Elainie Madsen, Martha Robbins, Liesbeth Sterck and Frans de Waal for constructive comments. Special thanks are due to Cathy Crockford for constant stimulating discussions and encouragement. This research was funded by the Swiss National Foundation and the Max Planck Society.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PrimatologyMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany

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