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A persistent question in primate study is whether nonhuman primates can strategize their behavior in a way that shows that they consider the other being (human or tamarin) also playing the game. In other words, can they think of the “other” and make predictable choices that show they are either trying to reduce rewards in reciprocation for an injustice or increase rewards under conditions of prosocial sharing?


Fozzy and Zhivago posing before sharing food.

01 July 2002

Our lab has struggled to answer this question in a variety of ways. Ben Basile (2003) tested whether committing a socially synchronous act would peak sharing behavior in tamarins. Julia Greenberg (2009) trained tamarins to pull ropes to acquire reward boxes, and then tested whether they could spontaneously pull together when it was necessary for 2 monkeys to move the box together. Chris Leppink-Shands (2019) tried this more recently with a box with 3 buttons that varied the payoff — if a monkey pushed a button when a human did, they doubled their reward payoff. Lydia Henderson (2016) developed a game involving taking turns and examined whether tamarins, like human partners who were also tested, would alter their choices to match the benevolence or selfishness of their partner. And Cathy Chen (2017) tested whether tamarins would choose to be deceptive in their choices as a tactic to maximize rewards. In every case, there was evidence that the tamarins could manipulate their own behavior in consistent ways that reflect considering another’s behavior and motives.


Henderson's turn-taking box.


Julia Greenberg feeding a monkey after the cooperation study.


Wizard figuring out the cloth-pulling task.

30 August 2008

Please click on the tabs above to find out more about our investigation of Food Sharing, Cooperation, Turn-Taking, and Tactical Deception.

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