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Problem solving in the presence of others: How rank and relationship quality impact resource acquisition in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Cronin, K. A., Pieper, B., Van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Mundry, R., & Haun, D. B. M. (2014). Problem solving in the presence of others: How rank and relationship quality impact resource acquisition in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). PLoS One, 9(4): e93204. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093204.
In the wild, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are often faced with clumped food resources that they may know how to access but abstain from doing so due to social pressures. To better understand how social settings influence resource acquisition, we tested fifteen semi-wild chimpanzees from two social groups alone and in the presence of others. We investigated how resource acquisition was affected by relative social dominance, whether collaborative problem solving or (active or passive) sharing occurred amongst any of the dyads, and whether these outcomes were related to relationship quality as determined from six months of observational data. Results indicated that chimpanzees, regardless of rank, obtained fewer rewards when tested in the presence of others compared to when they were tested alone. Chimpanzees demonstrated behavioral inhibition; chimpanzees who showed proficient skill when alone often abstained from solving the task when in the presence of others. Finally, individuals with close social relationships spent more time together in the problem solving space, but collaboration and sharing were infrequent and sessions in which collaboration or sharing did occur contained more instances of aggression. Group living provides benefits and imposes costs, and these findings highlight that one cost of group living may be diminishing productive individual behaviors.
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