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We provided chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) with the ability to improve the quality of food rewards they received in a dyadic test of inequity.We were interested to see if this provision influenced their responses and, if so, whether it was mediated by a social partner’s outcomes. We tested eight dyads using an exchange paradigm in which, depending on the condition, the chimpanzees were rewarded with either high-value (a grape) or low-value (a piece of celery) food rewards for each completed exchange. We included four conditions. In the first, “Different” condition, the subject received different, less-preferred, rewards than their partner for each exchange made (a test of inequity). In the “Unavailable” condition, high-value rewards were shown, but not given, to both chimpanzees prior to each exchange and the chimpanzees were rewarded equally with low-value rewards (a test of individual contrast). The final two conditions created equity. In these High-value and Low-value “Same” conditions both chimpanzees received the same food rewards for each exchange.Within each condition, the chimpanzees first completed ten trials in the Baseline Phase, in which the experimenter determined the rewards they received, and then ten trials in the Test Phase. In the Test Phase, the chimpanzees could exchange tokens through the aperture of a small wooden picture frame hung on their cage mesh in order to receive the high-value reward. Thus, in the Test Phase, the chimpanzees were provided with an opportunity to improve the quality of the rewards they received, either absolutely or relative to what their partner received. The chimpanzees responded in a targeted manner; in the Test Phase they attempted to maximize their returns in all conditions in which they had received low-value rewards during the Baseline Phase. Thus, the chimpanzees were apparently motivated to increase their reward regardless of their partners’, but they only used the mechanism provided when it afforded the opportunity for them to increase their rewards.We also found evidence that the chimpanzees’ responses were enhanced by social facilitation. Specifically, the chimpanzees were more likely to exchange their tokens through the frame when their test partner also did so, even in circumstances in which their reward value could not be improved. Our paradigm provided the chimpanzees with the possibility to improve the quality of rewards they received in the Test Phase. We found that refusals – to exchange tokens or to eat rewards – decreased significantly in the Test Phase compared to the Baseline Phase, where no such opportunity for improvement of outcomes existed. Thus, the chimpanzees participated more when they could improve the rewards they received.


This article was originally published in the open access journal PeerJ. Copyright © 2013 Hopper et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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