Adult bonobos show no prosociality in both prosocial choice task and group service paradigm

Jonas Verspeek, Edwin J C van Leeuwen, Daan W Laméris, Nicky Staes, Jeroen M G Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Previous studies reported contrasting conclusions concerning bonobo prosociality, which are likely due to differences in the experimental design, the social dynamics among subjects and characteristics of the subjects themselves. Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain the occurrence of prosociality in animals: the cooperative breeding hypothesis and the self-domestication hypothesis. While the former predicts low levels of prosociality in bonobos because they are non-cooperative breeders, the latter predicts high levels of prosociality because self-domestication has been proposed to select for high levels of tolerance in this species. Here, we presented a group of thirteen bonobos with two platform food-provisioning tasks: the prosocial choice task (PCT) and the group service paradigm (GSP). The latter has so far never been applied to bonobos. To allow for free choice of participation and partner, we implemented both tasks in a group setting. Like in previous PCT studies, bonobos did not choose the prosocial option more often when a group member could benefit vs not benefit. In the GSP, where food provisioning is costly, only subadult bonobos showed a limited amount of food provisioning, which was much lower than what was previously reported for chimpanzees. In both experiments, adult subjects were highly motivated to obtain rewards for themselves, suggesting that bonobos behaved indifferently to the gains of group members. We suggest that previous positive food-provisioning prosociality results in bonobos are mainly driven by the behaviour of subadult subjects. The lack of prosociality in this study corresponds to the hypothesis that proactive food provisioning co-occurs with cooperative breeding and suggests that proactive prosociality might not be part of the self-domestication syndrome in bonobos.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12849
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Age effect
  • Ecological validity
  • Food-provisioning
  • Free choice
  • Great apes
  • Group experiment
  • Pan paniscus
  • Pan universal
  • Paradigm
  • Zoo-housed


Dive into the research topics of 'Adult bonobos show no prosociality in both prosocial choice task and group service paradigm'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this