It seems that chimpanzees are not that different from the modern human since trust is the key element for a chimp’s friendship. The social requirements of the primates are highly similar to those of humans. And while there are other animals that can build relationships based on trust, the chimpanzee actually grasps the concept of a “best friend forever”.
Chimpanzees have more complex social relations than we originally thought
The latest article on the matter was published this Thursday in the Current Biology journal and was written by Esther Herrmann and Jan Engelmann from the Max Planck Evolutionary Anthropology Institute from Leipzig, Germany. The researchers have studied a total of 15 chimpanzees from Kenya’s Chimpanzee Sanctuary and came to the conclusion that trust is the key element for a chimp’s friendship.
Popular belief is that the primates in question are actually a very aggressive species. Researchers before Hermann and Engelmann have spent years documenting mating rituals, alpha male spars, mothers fighting for the protection of baby male chimps from the wrath of the dominant adults and other violent practices that brought chimpanzees their reputation of aggressiveness.
Sharing is caring
But it seems that the baring of teeth and anger screams are reserved only for those who have not yet earned a peer’s trust. In order to be able to demonstrate the hypothesis of their study, the two researchers first identified pairs of “non-friend” and “friend”. After that, they altered a trust game that is usually played by humans in order to fit their needs.
The basics of the game were that the chimpanzees had to pull two ropes, a “no-trust rope” and a “trust rope”. The first one granted access to a type of food that was not to the pleasing of the animal. The second sent treats (like bananas or apples) to the partner with which the chimpanzee was partnered for the game. But there is also a catch because a chimp that is trustworthy will automatically share the gift with the one that made the generous gift. A selfish chimpanzee was deemed untrustworthy.
Trust is key
The conclusions were that, as would humans do, the chimps were more willing to give and share the food with friends, but reluctant when it came to primates they did not know or did not yet come to trust.
Friendship, apparently, lies as a foundation for all social interactions, and it seems that trust is the key element to a chimp’s friendship.
Image source: www.wikipedia.org