Humans routinely confront situations that require coordination between individuals, from mundane activities such as planning where to go for dinner to incredibly complicated activities, such as international agreements. Moreover, despite some failure, we frequently succeed in these situations. How did this ability arise, and what prevents success in those situations in which it breaks down? To understand how this capability has evolved, the CEBUS lab utilizes an explicitly comparative approach. For instance, in one line of research we have discovered a correlation between species that respond negatively to inequity and the tendency to cooperate with non-kin outside of family groups. We also find that primates coordinate on economic games, but that Old World primates find better outcomes than do New World primates, indicating a split within the primate taxon. Finally, are particularly interested in how ecology affects cooperation, and so are comparing primates with another highly cooperative species, cleaner fish, to elucidate the ecological pressures that have influenced cooperation. Such studies help us to better understanding the evolution of cooperation in primates, and hence provide insight in to how cooperation works in humans.

Relevant Publications

Silk, JB, Brosnan, SF, Henrich, J, Lambeth, SP & Schaprio, SJ (2013) Chimpanzees share food for many reasons: the roles of kinship, reciprocity, relationship quality, and solicitation pressure on food transfers. Animal Behavior 85, 941-947.

Salwiczek, L. H., Prétôt, L., Demarta, L., Proctor, D., Essler, J., Pinto, A. I., Wismer, S., Stoinski, T., Brosnan, S.F., & Bshary, R. (2012). Adult Cleaner Wrasse Outperform Capuchin Monkeys, Chimpanzees and Orang-utans in a Complex Foraging Task Derived from Cleaner-Client Reef Fish Cooperation. PloS one, 7(11), e49068.

Brosnan, S. F., Salwiczek, L., & Bshary, R. (2010). The interplay of cognition and cooperation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365(1553), 2699-2710. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0154

Brosnan, S. F. and Bshary, R., 2010. Cooperation and deception: from evolution to mechanisms. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365:2593-2598

Brosnan, Sarah F. and de Waal, Frans B. M. (2002). Variations on tit-for-tat: Proximate mechanisms of cooperation and reciprocity. Human Nature 13 (1): 129-152.