UK & World News

  • 14 January 2013, 21:56

Chimps And Humans Share Sense Of Fair Play

Chimpanzees and humans possess a similar sense of fairness, it seems.

Scientists watched both species taking part in a game in which two players had to decide how to divide a reward between them.

In the tests, bananas acted as rewards for the chimps and stickers for the children, who were aged between two and seven.

Known as the 'Ultimatum Game', after the first player proposes how to divide the reward between the two players, the second player can either accept or reject the proposal.

If this player objects, neither player receives anything. If they accept, the reward is split according to the proposal.

The children tended to offer fair proportions, typically half of the reward, to their partners.

Observers discovered almost exactly the same pattern of behaviour among the group of chimps.

But in both groups, the sense of fair play only went so far.

When it was possible to be selfish without any chance of the proposal being rejected, charity tended to be forgotten.

Dr Frans de Waal, from theYerkes National Primate ResearchCentre in Atlanta, said: "Until our study, thebehavioural economics community assumed the Ultimatum Game could not be playedwith animals, or that animals would choose only the most selfish option while playing.

"We've concluded that chimpanzees not only get very close to the human senseof fairness, but the animals may actually have exactly the same preferences asour own species."

Scientists believe the findings, which are published in the journal Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences, suggest that sensitivity to reward distributions may help chimps reap the benefits ofco-operation in the wild.