Social Justice Research

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 140–169 | Cite as

To Each According to his Need? Variability in the Responses to Inequity in Non-Human Primates

  • Sara A. PriceEmail author
  • Sarah F. Brosnan


While it is well established that humans respond to inequity, it remains unclear the extent to which this behavior occurs in our non-human primate relatives. By comparing a variety of species, spanning from New World and Old World monkeys to great apes, scientists can begin to answer questions about how the response to inequity evolved, what the function of this response is, and why and how different contexts shape it. In particular, research across non-human primate species suggests that the response is quite variable across species, contexts, and individuals. In this paper, we aim to review these differences in an attempt to identify and better understand the patterns that emerge from the existing data with the goal of developing directions for future research. To begin, we address the importance of considering socio-ecological factors in non-human primates in order to better understand and predict expected patterns of cooperation and aversion to inequity in different species, following which we provide a detailed analysis of the patterns uncovered by these comparisons. Ultimately, we use this synthesis to propose new ideas for research to better understand this response and, hence, the evolution of our own responses to inequity.


Inequity response Fairness Inequity aversion Non-human primates Species comparison 



S.F.B. was funded by a National Science Foundation Human and Social Dynamics grant (NSF SES 0729244) and a National Science Foundation CAREER award (NSF SES 0847351). We thank Lydia Hopper, Michael Beran, and Friederike Range for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript, as well as the researchers at Georgia State University’s Language Research Center and the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center for inspiring conversation about these ideas.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology & Language Research CenterGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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