Biology & Philosophy

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1005–1020 | Cite as

How do you measure pleasure? A discussion about intrinsic costs and benefits in primate allogrooming

  • Yvan I. Russell
  • Steve Phelps


Social grooming is an important element of social life in terrestrial primates, inducing the putative benefits of β-endorphin stimulation and group harmony and cohesion. Implicit in many analyses of grooming (e.g. biological markets) are the assumptions of costs and benefits to grooming behaviour. Here, in a review of literature, we investigate the proximate costs and benefits of grooming, as a potentially useful explanatory substrate to the well-documented ultimate (functional) explanations. We find that the hedonic benefits of grooming are well documented. However, we did not find convincing evidence for costs. If proximate costs do exist, they might consist of energetic, cognitive, opportunity costs, or some combination of all of these. Nonetheless, there remains the possibility that grooming costs are negligible, or even that the provision of allogrooming is rewarding in itself. We suggest empirical research to resolve this issue.


Grooming Value Sociality Primates Cost Benefit Game theory 



Yvan Russell was partly funded by the German Initiative of Excellence of the German Science Foundation (DFG).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Junior Research Group “Evolution of Cooperation and Prosocial Behavior”, CRC Evolution of Social BehaviourUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary AnthropologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyMiddlesex UniversityLondonUK
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyBrunel UniversityUxbridgeUK
  5. 5.Centre for Computational Finance and Economic AgentsUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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