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Dec 1, 2008

Relationship quality in chimpanzees


Relationship quality in chimpanzees from Chester Zoo - North of England Zoological Society

Reconciliation, consolation and relationship quality in chimpanzees - a project that helps us understand chimpanzee behaviour

Conflicts of interest (COI) arise regularly in group-living animals.

Escalation from COI to aggressive conflicts may be costly and damage relationships between opponents, resulting in loss of benefits afforded by the relationship, and there may be signs of increased tension (e.g. self-directed behaviours). Costs may be mitigated through post-conflict (PC) interactions, such as reconciliation (PC affiliative reunion between former opponents) and consolation (affiliative PC interaction directed from a third-party towards the recipient of aggression).

This study, of PC behaviour and relationship quality in 22 adult chimpanzees at Chester Zoo, demonstrated the occurrence of reconciliation and consolation. Evidence for behavioural specificity was found for both which, along with high conciliatory tendencies, suggests an explicit style of PC behaviour. Behavioural measures of tension (levels of self-scratching, self-grooming), showed that both reconciliation and consolation reduce behaviours associated with PC tension, in recipients of aggression, providing the first evidence for the tension-alleviating function of consolation. Principal components analysis was used to extract three key components of relationship quality (‘Value,’ ‘Compatibility’ and ‘Security’), from nine behavioural variables.

Effects of multiple factors on occurrence of reconciliation and consolation were analysed; reconciliation occurred in the absence of consolation, and vice versa, thus consolation might function as an alternative to reconciliation. Recipients of aggression were more likely to receive consolation from valuable partners, suggesting that chimpanzees are particularly responsive to the distress of those individuals.

Thus, chimpanzees may respond empathetically to valuable partners by consoling recipients of aggression, thereby reducing PC tension, especially when reconciliation does not occur. 


Chester Zoo - North of England Zoological Society

COMMENDATION received in BIAZA Awards 2011




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