Chimps Create Friendships the Same Way that Humans Do: Trust

First Posted: Jan 15, 2016 05:36 PM EST

Chimps are similar to humans in many ways. Now, scientists have found that chimps form friendship based on trust, similar to what we do.

"Humans largely trust only their friends with crucial resources or important secrets," said Jan Engelmann, one of the researchers, in a news release. "In our study, we investigated whether chimpanzees show a comparable pattern and extend trust selectively toward those individuals they are closely bonded with. Our findings suggest that they do indeed, and thus that current characteristics of human friendships have a long evolutionary history and extend to primate social bonds."

In this latest study, the researchers observed interactions of 15 chimpanzees living at Sweetwaters Sanctuary in Kenya over a five-month period. Based on friendly interactions among chimp pairs, including grooming and eating together, the researchers identified each chimpanzee's closest "friend" and "non-friend."

The scientists then had the chimps play a modified version of what's known as the human trust game, both with their friend and with their non-friend. In the game, the chimps had a choice between pulling a "no-trust rope" and a "trust rope." When the first rope was pulled, the first chimp got immediate access to a food that he or she didn't like especially well. When the trust rope was pulled, the other chimp got immediate access to a more tempting food with the option to send a treat back to the first chimp.

The researchers found that there was a much greater trust between friends and non-friends. The chimps were more likely to choose a risky but high-payoff option when paired with a friend.

The findings reveal that like humans, chimps also rely on trust when dealing with their friends.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

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