The Evolution of Property
Individual property is a rarity in most species of nonhuman primates, most likely because their lifestyles are not conducive to the maintenance of property. Nonetheless, just because these species do not frequently maintain property does not mean that they lack the propensity to do so. Recent research from the CEBUS lab has shed light on primates' concepts of property. First, we have found evidence of an endowment effect in several apes, similar to that in humans. These individuals prefer to maintain property that they have in their possession over trading it for something better, showing that they and we share biases in common with respect to property in common. Second, we find that chimpanzees and capuchins are quite good at barter between themselves and a human experimenter, and appropriately respond based on the value of the objects. Moreover, chimpanzees will barter with conspecifics, yet ceased doing so as soon as experimenter control was removed. Property concepts beyond possession may be challenging for chimpanzees due to the risks involved when social and institutional controls for maintaining property (e.g. gossip or legal mechanisms) are lacking. By comparing these data in other primates to those data available in humans, we gain perspective on how human property concepts have evolved.