Population-level variability in the social climates of four chimpanzee societies

Katherine A. Cronin*, Edwin J.C. van Leeuwen, Vivian Vreeman, Daniel B.M. Haun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Recent debates have questioned the extent to which culturally-transmitted norms drive behavioral variation in resource sharing across human populations. We shed new light on this discussion by examining the group-level variation in the social dynamics and resource sharing of chimpanzees, a species that is highly social and forms long-term community associations but differs from humans in the extent to which cultural norms are adopted and enforced. We rely on theory developed in primate socioecology to guide our investigation in four neighboring chimpanzee groups at a sanctuary in Zambia. We used a combination of experimental and observational approaches to assess the distribution of resource holding potential in each group. In the first assessment, we measured the proportion of the population that gathered in a resource-rich zone, in the second we assessed naturally occurring social spacing via social network analysis, and in the third we assessed the degree to which benefits were equally distributed within the group. We report significant, stable group-level variation across these multiple measures, indicating that group-level variation in resource sharing and social tolerance is not necessarily reliant upon human-like cultural norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-396
Number of pages8
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Chimpanzees
  • Culture
  • Intraspecific variation
  • Norms
  • Sharing
  • Social networks
  • Social tolerance


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