Chimpanzees and bonobos use social leverage in an ultimatum game



Sánchez-Amaro A & Rossano F (2021) Chimpanzees and bonobos use social leverage in an ultimatum game. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 288 (1962).

The ultimatum game (UG) is widely used to investigate our sense of fairness, a key characteristic that differentiates us from our closest living relatives, bonobos and chimpanzees. Previous studies found that, in general, great apes behave as rational maximizers in the UG. Proposers tend to choose self-maximizing offers, while responders accept most non-zero offers. These studies do not rule out the possibility that apes can behave prosocially to improve the returns for themselves and others. However, this has never been well studied. In this study, we offer chimpanzee and bonobo proposers the possibility of taking into account the leverage of responders over the offers they receive. This leverage takes the form of access to alternatives for responders. We find that proposers tend to propose fairer offers when responders have the option to access alternatives. Furthermore, we find that both species use their leverage to reject unequal offers. Our results suggest that great apes mostly act as rational maximizers in an UG, yet access to alternatives can lead them to change their strategies such as not choosing the self-maximizing offer as proposers and not accepting every offer higher than zero as responders.

ultimatum game; leverage; prosociality; chimpanzee; bonobo

Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Volume 288, Issue 1962

Publication date30/11/2021
Publication date online30/11/2021
Date accepted by journal11/10/2021
PublisherThe Royal Society

People (1)


Dr Alejandro Sanchez Amaro

Dr Alejandro Sanchez Amaro

Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology