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Hare Brian and Yamamoto Shinya

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Brian Hare and Shinya Yamamoto

Abstract

This Special Issue of Behaviour includes twelve novel empirical papers focusing on the behaviour and cognition of both captive and wild bonobos (Pan paniscus). As our species less known closest relative, the bonobo has gone from being little studied to increasingly popular as a species of focus over the past decade. We suggest that bonobos are ready to come off the scientific endangered list as a result. This Special Issue is exhibit A in showing that a renaissance in bonobo research is well underway. In this Editorial we review a number of traits in which bonobos and chimpanzees are more similar to humans than they are each other. We show how this means that bonobos provide an extremely powerful test of ideas about human uniqueness as well as being crucial to determining the evolutionary processes by which cognitive traits evolve in apes. This introduction places the twelve empirical contributions within the Special Issue in the larger evolutionary context to which they contribute. Overall this Special Issue demonstrates how anyone interested in understanding humans or chimpanzees must also know bonobos.

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Hare Brian and Yamamoto Shinya

Restricted Access

Brian Hare and Shinya Yamamoto

This Special Issue of Behaviour includes twelve novel empirical papers focusing on the behaviour and cognition of both captive and wild bonobos (Pan paniscus). As our species less known closest relative, the bonobo has gone from being little studied to increasingly popular as a species of focus over the past decade. We suggest that bonobos are ready to come off the scientific endangered list as a result. This Special Issue is exhibit A in showing that a renaissance in bonobo research is well underway. In this Editorial we review a number of traits in which bonobos and chimpanzees are more similar to humans than they are each other. We show how this means that bonobos provide an extremely powerful test of ideas about human uniqueness as well as being crucial to determining the evolutionary processes by which cognitive traits evolve in apes. This introduction places the twelve empirical contributions within the Special Issue in the larger evolutionary context to which they contribute. Overall this Special Issue demonstrates how anyone interested in understanding humans or chimpanzees must also know bonobos.

Open Access

Edited by Brian Hare and Shinya Yamamoto

This volume includes twelve novel empirical papers focusing on the behaviour and cognition of both captive and wild bonobos ( Pan paniscus). As our species less known closest relative, the bonobo has gone from being little studied to increasingly popular as a species of focus over the past decade. Overall this volume demonstrates how anyone interested in understanding humans or chimpanzees must also know bonobos. Bonobos are not only equal to chimpanzees as our relatives, but they are also unique.

The majority of papers in this volume show that whether you are interested in the evolution of culture and tool use, social relationships and sharing or foraging ecology and cognition, bonobos have a major contribution to make. Four papers provide further evidence that the behaviour and psychology of bonobo females is radically different from that observed in chimpanzees. Foraging behaviour and cognition of bonobos is the focus of three papers that each show important ways that bonobos spatial cognition differs remarkably from chimpanzees. Two papers are relevant to solving the puzzle of why bonobos are expert extractive foragers in captivity but have never been seen using tools to obtain food in the wild.

The articles presented in this volume are previously published in a Special Issue of Behaviour, Volume 152, Parts 3-4 (March 2015).
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Evan L. MacLean and Brian Hare

Abstract

Previous research has shown that chimpanzees exploit the behavior of humans and conspecifics more readily in a competitive than a cooperative context. However, it is unknown whether bonobos, who outperform chimpanzees in some cooperative tasks, also show greater cognitive flexibility in competitive contexts. Here we tested the cooperative-competitive hypothesis further by comparing bonobos and chimpanzees in a series of tasks where a human gesture indicated the correct (cooperative) or incorrect (competitive) choice. A human either pointed cooperatively to the object a subject should choose, or competitively to the object subjects should avoid choosing. In contrast to previous research, subjects were most skilled at choosing the correct location when the communicator was cooperative and there were no major differences between bonobos and chimpanzees. Analysis of gaze direction revealed that in some cases subjects visually followed the direction of the experimenter’s gesture despite choosing incorrectly, dissociating gesture following from gesture comprehension. This supports the hypothesis that, unlike human children, nonhuman apes respond to the direction of social gestures more readily than they understand the communicative intentions underlying them. We evaluate these findings in regard to previous studies comparing the cooperative and communicative skills of bonobos and chimpanzees.

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Evan L. MacLean and Brian Hare

Previous research has shown that chimpanzees exploit the behavior of humans and conspecifics more readily in a competitive than a cooperative context. However, it is unknown whether bonobos, who outperform chimpanzees in some cooperative tasks, also show greater cognitive flexibility in competitive contexts. Here we tested the cooperative-competitive hypothesis further by comparing bonobos and chimpanzees in a series of tasks where a human gesture indicated the correct (cooperative) or incorrect (competitive) choice. A human either pointed cooperatively to the object a subject should choose, or competitively to the object subjects should avoid choosing. In contrast to previous research, subjects were most skilled at choosing the correct location when the communicator was cooperative and there were no major differences between bonobos and chimpanzees. Analysis of gaze direction revealed that in some cases subjects visually followed the direction of the experimenter’s gesture despite choosing incorrectly, dissociating gesture following from gesture comprehension. This supports the hypothesis that, unlike human children, nonhuman apes respond to the direction of social gestures more readily than they understand the communicative intentions underlying them. We evaluate these findings in regard to previous studies comparing the cooperative and communicative skills of bonobos and chimpanzees.

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Jingzhi Tan, Suzy Kwetuenda and Brian Hare

Abstract

Bonobos are the only ape species, other than humans, that have demonstrated prosocial behaviors toward groupmates and strangers. However, bonobos have not been tested in the most frequently used test of prosociality in animals. The current study tested the other-regarding preferences of bonobos in two experiments using the prosocial choice task. In the first experiment subjects preferred a food option that would benefit both themselves and another bonobo. This preference was likely the result of a location bias developed in the pretest since they showed the same preference in the non-social control condition within test sessions. A second experiment was designed to help subjects overcome this bias that might interfere with their social choices. Bonobos again did not prefer to choose the prosocial option. However, results suggest constraints of this paradigm in revealing social preferences. In discussing our results we consider why bonobos show robust prosocial preferences in other paradigms but not here. While others have suggested that such contradictory results might suggest interesting motivational or cognitive differences between humans and non-humans, we propose that the current ‘standard’ paradigm has failed validation due to three methodological constraints. Across the dozens of studies completed few have demonstrated that non-human subjects understand the causal properties of the apparatus, non-social biases quickly develop in inadequately counterbalanced pretests that typically explain subjects’ choices in the test, and even human children found this choice task too cognitively demanding to consistently show prosocial preferences. We suggest it is time to consider switching to a variety of more powerful and valid measures.

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Kara Schroepfer-Walker, Victoria Wobber and Brian Hare

Abstract

While natural observations show apes use grooming and play as social currency, no experimental manipulations have been carried out to measure the effects of these behaviours on relationship formation in apes. While previous experiments have demonstrated apes quickly learn the identity of individuals who will provide food in a variety of cooperative and non-cooperative situations, no experiment has ever examined how grooming and play might shape the preferences of apes for different individuals. We gave a group bonobos (N = 25) and chimpanzees (N = 30) a choice between an unfamiliar human who had recently groomed or played with them and one who had not. Both species showed a preference for the unfamiliar human that had interacted with them over the one who did not. The effect was largely driven by the males of both species while interacting with females showed little effect on their preferences for unfamiliar humans. Subjects showed this preference even though they only had social interactions with one of the unfamiliar humans for a few minutes before each trial and their choices were not rewarded with food differentially. Our results support the long held idea that grooming and play act as a form of social currency in great apes (and likely many other species) that can rapidly shape social relationships, particularly between unfamiliar individuals.

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Jingzhi Tan, Suzy Kwetuenda and Brian Hare

Bonobos are the only ape species, other than humans, that have demonstrated prosocial behaviors toward groupmates and strangers. However, bonobos have not been tested in the most frequently used test of prosociality in animals. The current study tested the other-regarding preferences of bonobos in two experiments using the prosocial choice task. In the first experiment subjects preferred a food option that would benefit both themselves and another bonobo. This preference was likely the result of a location bias developed in the pretest since they showed the same preference in the non-social control condition within test sessions. A second experiment was designed to help subjects overcome this bias that might interfere with their social choices. Bonobos again did not prefer to choose the prosocial option. However, results suggest constraints of this paradigm in revealing social preferences. In discussing our results we consider why bonobos show robust prosocial preferences in other paradigms but not here. While others have suggested that such contradictory results might suggest interesting motivational or cognitive differences between humans and non-humans, we propose that the current ‘standard’ paradigm has failed validation due to three methodological constraints. Across the dozens of studies completed few have demonstrated that non-human subjects understand the causal properties of the apparatus, non-social biases quickly develop in inadequately counterbalanced pretests that typically explain subjects’ choices in the test, and even human children found this choice task too cognitively demanding to consistently show prosocial preferences. We suggest it is time to consider switching to a variety of more powerful and valid measures.