Even Chimps Trust Friends

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Tue 29th Mar, 2016

Trust plays an important part in any friendship.

We trust that our friends will be there for us in a time of need, even if it means sacrificing something themselves. This sometimes seems self-destructive, especially if we place our trust within the wrong people but also seems as something that makes us human.

However, a recent study on chimpanzees has shown that trust is not a uniquely human characteristic; showing that chimpanzees place special trust in their friends compared to their non-friends.

The study was carried out by Dr. Jan M. Engelmann and Dr. Esther Herrmann at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany. Dr Engelmann is an expert in cooperative social relationships with Dr Herrmann being an expert in evolutionary and developmental psychology.

The evolutionary benefit of trust seemed to be elusive, with little known about the origins of the behaviour. It was hoped that through studying chimpanzees, who have social bonds within their groups that have parallels with human relationships, we would find more information about the evolutionary history of the trust phenomenon.

To test the characteristic of trust, scientists gave the chimpanzees a modified version of the human trust game. They undertook 12 trials of the game with their friends and 12 trials with their non-friends.

In the game, a chimpanzee had to choose between pulling a rope that represented no-trust, which resulted in the chimpanzee having immediate access to less of the preferred food or a rope that represented trust, in which the partner could have access to the preferred food.

The partner (second chimpanzee) then had a choice whether to send their "friend" more preferred food, which the first chimp (who pulled the rope) couldn't reach, or not. It follows that if the chimps were friends and trusted each other, then the first chimp would pull the trust rope because the second chimp would give them more food.

Just as in human trust relationships, this test involved uncertainty and risk to the chimpanzees that their partner might cheat them out of food.

The findings of the study showed that chimpanzees trust their friends significantly more than their non-friends.

This is evidence that trust- a key part in any stable social bond between people and chimpanzees allows for cooperation in relationships and has been shown to increase survival rate, longevity and the number of children born.

Such studies reinforce the belief that surrounding yourself with people who you trust, leads to positive things.

As the saying goes "surround yourself with people who are only going to lift you higher"!

Image credit: Unsplash- Cristina Cerda (https://unsplash.com/photos/e5EioBQmH8c)

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