Apes reciprocate food positively and negatively

Bailey House, Avi Benozio*, Michael Tomasello

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reciprocal food exchange is widespread in human societies but not among great apes, who may view food mainly as a target for competition. Understanding the similarities and differences between great apes' and humans’ willingness to exchange food is important for our models regarding the origins of uniquely human forms of cooperation. Here, we demonstrate in-kind food exchanges in experimental settings with great apes for the first time. The initial sample consisted of 13 chimpanzees and 5 bonobos in the control phases, and the test phases included 10 chimpanzees and 2 bonobos, compared with a sample of 48 human children aged 4 years. First, we replicated prior findings showing no spontaneous food exchanges in great apes. Second, we discovered that when apes believe that conspecifics have ‘intentionally’ transferred food to them, positive reciprocal food exchanges (food-for-food) are not only …
Original languageEnglish
Article number20222541
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2023

Cite this