Do Chimpanzees Learn Reputation by Observation? Evidence from Direct and Indirect Experience with Generous and Selfish Strangers

F. Subiaul*, J. Vonk, S. Barth-Okamoto, J. Barth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Can chimpanzees learn the reputation of strangers indirectly by observation? or are such stable behavioral attributions made exclusively by first-person interactions? to address this question, we let seven chimpanzees observe unfamiliar humans either consistently give (generous donor) or refuse to give (selfish donor) food to a familiar human recipient (experiments 1 and 2) and a conspecific (experiment 3). While chimpanzees did not initially prefer to beg for food from the generous donor (experiment 1), after continued opportunities to observe the same behavioral exchanges, four chimpanzees developed a preference for gesturing to the generous donor (experiment 2), and transferred this preference to novel unfamiliar donor pairs, significantly preferring to beg from the novel generous donors on the first opportunity to do so. In experiment 3, four chimpanzees observed novel selfish and generous acts directed toward other chimpanzees by human experimenters. During the first half of testing, three chimpanzees exhibited a preference for the novel generous donor on the first trial. These results demonstrate that chimpanzees can infer the reputation of strangers by eavesdropping on third-party interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-623
Number of pages13
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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