Bonobos Like Bullies Who Harass And Steal From Others

Old bonobos get long-sighted, and their social lives suffer for it

Humans are closely related to apes but findings of a new study have revealed that bonobos, one of our two closest relatives, have a preference for bullies, who harass, hinder, and steal from others.

Humans Prefer Nice People Over Mean Ones

Humans prefer nice people over mean ones. Earlier studies have shown that human infants, as young as three months old, prefer people they saw doing a good deed over those they have witnessed treating others badly. Findings of a new study, however, show that this isn't the case when it comes to bonobos.

Bonobos Prefer The Bad Guys

In the new study, Brian Hare, from Duke University, and Christopher Krupenye, from the University of St. Andrews, showed cartoon videos to a group of bonobos. The videos featured a circular figure attempting to climb a hill. A square character prevented the circle to reach the summit while a triangle character assisted with the climb.

The bonobos were then given the chance to choose one of two pieces of fruits that were either placed beneath a cutout of the good character or placed beneath the cutout of the bad character. The apes chose the fruit beneath the mean character.

In a second experiment, the bonobos watched a skit that featured human actors. The skit featured a person who tried to return a stuffed toy to its owner but another actor snatched the toy and then ran away. Just like with the first experiment, the bonobos were more willing to accept fruit from the character who stole the toy.

In the last experiment, the apes watched a cartoon character giving up the seat to another and another video that featured a cartoon character unwilling to give up the seat. The bonobos once again chose the less generous character.

"Right now, we can say we see that bonobos and human infants show opposite preferences," Krupenye said.

Why Bonobos Have Preference For Bullies

Researchers think that the bonobos behave this way, not because they prize poor behavior but because they perceive the mean characters as dominant. Researchers said that these animals still live in a society of dominance and this can help explain their preference to bad individuals.

"For them, dominance is really important," Krupenye said. "We think that they are seeing the hinderer as the dominant individual because the individual blocks someone else's goal."

The findings were published in the journal Current Biology on Jan. 4.

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