Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Evidence of direct reciprocity, but not of indirect and generalized reciprocity, in the grooming exchanges of wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus).

2017 Jun 9. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22679. [Epub ahead of print]

Author information

School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, United Kingdom.
Laboratoire CLLE-LTC, UMR 5263, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, Toulouse, France.


Reciprocity is one of the mechanisms that have been proposed to explain the exchange of social behaviors, such as grooming, in animals. Reciprocity assumes that individuals act as the donor and recipient of grooming and switch roles over time to balance the benefits and costs of this behavior. Three main patterns of reciprocity may follow a grooming given: (i) direct reciprocity, where the former recipient returns the grooming to the former donor; (ii) indirect reciprocity, where another individual returns the grooming to the former donor; and (iii) generalized reciprocity, where the former recipient returns the grooming to another individual. While there is evidence that direct reciprocity plays an important role in various species of animals, the role of indirect and generalized reciprocity is less clear and has been rarely analyzed. We tested the role of direct, indirect, and generalized reciprocity in explaining grooming exchanges of wild Barbary macaques, by analyzing the temporal contingency between giving and receiving grooming. We collected the occurrence and latency of the three types of grooming reciprocation during 1 hr long focal sessions run simultaneously on two partners who just stopped grooming (post-grooming session) or who were in proximity (i.e., within 1.5 m) without grooming each other (control session). We ran the analyses on 284 post-grooming and 63 control sessions. The results revealed a temporal contingency of grooming interactions exchanged according to direct reciprocity but not according to indirect or generalized reciprocity. Our results indicate that grooming distribution in Barbary macaques is partner-specific. We discuss the possible role of cognition and emotions in explaining direct reciprocity in animals.


altruism; grooming; primate; reciprocity