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Several species of non-human primates respond negatively to inequitable outcomes, a trait shared with humans. Despite previous research, questions regarding the response to inequity remain. In this study, we replicated the methodology from previous studies to address four questions related to inequity. First, we explored the impact of basic social factors. Second, we addressed whether negative responses to inequity require a task, or exist when rewards are given for ‘free’. Third, we addressed whether differences in the experimental procedure or the level of effort required to obtain a reward affected responses. Finally, we explored the interaction between ‘individual’ expectations (based on one’s own previous experience) and ‘social’ expectations (based on the partner’s experience). These questions were investigated in 16 socially-housed adult chimpanzees using eight conditions that varied across the dimensions of reward, effort, and procedure. Subjects did respond to inequity, but only in the context of a task. Differences in procedure and level of effort required did not cause individuals to change their behavior. Males were more sensitive to social than to individual expectation, while females were more sensitive to individual expectation. Finally, subjects also increased refusals when receiving a better reward than their partner, which has not been seen previously. These results indicate that chimpanzees are more sensitive to reward inequity than procedures, and that there is interaction between social and individual expectations that depends upon social factors.


This article was originally published in the journal Animal Behavior. Copyright © 2010 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

The post-peer-reviewed version is posted here with the permission of the author.

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