Who gets the biggest piece of cake?

19 Nov 2020 | Back to News, Publications and Annual Reports



The one who is the most aggressive or nice, or, for example, the one who tries to influence others' choices? Both humans and monkeys (primates) exhibit various forms of complex social behavior. Researchers from Utrecht University and BPRC argue that this social complexity is important for acquiring scarce and desirable resources over which there is competition between peers, such as food, the best toys, support, attention and doing favourite activities. In short: getting your way.

Humans and monkeys employ different types of social behavior to achieve different goals. The type of behavior used appears to be related to the goal. For example, being aggressive seems to work best for obtaining goods, such as the largest piece of cake. But to get help and support, you better be nice. A third type of social behavior - inspiring someone to follow your example - is new and has not yet been extensively researched. The purpose of this is to get your way, and then probably mainly persuade others to participate in what you enjoy.

Many similarities between humans and monkeys

The researchers see strong similarities between social behavior in humans and monkeys, but the methodological differences make it difficult to make good comparisons between the two. The researchers therefore argue that biologists in particular should pay more attention to the way in which monkeys combine different types of social behavior, while psychologists and pedagogues should investigate more thoroughly the results of these behaviors, especially in children.

The publication on this work can be found here.