Females are More Negative Toward Each Other: Chimp Behavior Unravelled

First Posted: Mar 04, 2013 02:13 PM EST

It turns out that females are more negative toward each other--at least when it comes to chimps. A new study shows that females don't "apologize" to one another, and tend to "suck up" to males.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Primatology, were discovered by Nicole Scott, a PhD student from the University of Minnesota. She recorded the behavior of 17 females and five males in a group of chimps at Chester Zoo. After recording their interactions, she then analyzed specific movements between the chimps.

While the overall behavior between the chimps showed no difference in the gestures, there were variances when it came to individual interactions. Females adopted different gestures depending on whether they were communicating with a chimp that was male or female.

During female-female interactions, the chimps used more aggressive signals and "apologized" less with gestures that meant reassurance. In contrast, during female-male interactions, females used more expressions of greeting and submission. Scott theorized that various social pressures could influence how the chimps interact with one another. For example, males could have more positive relationships with other males due to the importance of alliances when maintaining a high social rank in a group.

The findings could show insights into human behavior. Since humans have formed social groups since early in their history, the chimpanzee behavior could provide evolutionary evidence of why humans act the way they do in social situations.

In an interview with BBC Nature, Scott said, "To speak anthropomorphically, I can certainly see some parallels in my own life: women are generally more aggressive and competitive with each other...[and] men do not change their behavior outside the context of social rank."  She went on to say, "Perhaps we inherited these traits from our ancestors, traits which were adaptive for their social pressures, but I'll leave that argument for the anthropologists." 

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