Calculated reciprocity after all: computation behind token transfers in orang-utans

When considering only the last three series where individuals had to obtain their self-value token from their partner, we found a significant correlation between the number of partner-value tokens received and given

V Dufour


Scholarcy highlights

  • Economics in human societies constitute a notable anomaly compared with the animal kingdom
  • Passive food transfers are frequently observed among conspecifics, active transfers are much less frequent and reciprocal food transfers are virtually nonexistent in non-human primates
  • She displaced 63 and 19 partner-valuable and partner-valueless tokens near the fence, respectively. Both subjects transferred more partner-valuable tokens to their partner than nonvaluable ones. This result remained unchanged after restricting the analysis to the active transfers
  • We observed an increase in the occurrence and length of consecutive turn taking. This is the first experimental demonstration in nonhuman primates of the occurrence of calculated reciprocity through the repeated exchanges of goods. It is currently unclear whether increasing the number of trials or slightly changing the procedure by compelling orang-utans to exchange with their partner to get valuable tokens was the reason for the appearance of a more sophisticated token transfer system
  • The intentionality behind giving, the computation based on expected returns, in addition to the shared knowledge of the value of the traded items showed that calculated reciprocity underpinned the transfers of goods

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