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Published June 5, 2014 | Supplemental Material + Published
Journal Article Open

Chimpanzee choice rates in competitive games match equilibrium game theory predictions


The capacity for strategic thinking about the payoff-relevant actions of conspecifics is not well understood across species. We use game theory to make predictions about choices and temporal dynamics in three abstract competitive situations with chimpanzee participants. Frequencies of chimpanzee choices are extremely close to equilibrium (accurate-guessing) predictions, and shift as payoffs change, just as equilibrium theory predicts. The chimpanzee choices are also closer to the equilibrium prediction, and more responsive to past history and payoff changes, than two samples of human choices from experiments in which humans were also initially uninformed about opponent payoffs and could not communicate verbally. The results are consistent with a tentative interpretation of game theory as explaining evolved behavior, with the additional hypothesis that chimpanzees may retain or practice a specialized capacity to adjust strategy choice during competition to perform at least as well as, or better than, humans have.

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© 2014 The Authors. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. The images in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the image credit; if the image is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder in order to reproduce the image. Received 11 April 2013; Accepted 13 May 2014; Published 5 June 2014. Funds were provided by The Ministry of Education, Sports Technology, and Culture (MEXT) No. 24000001, No. 20002001, JSPS-GCOE (A06, Biodiversity) (T.M.), JSPS grant-in-aid (C.M.), Tamagawa GCOE (C.C.), the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (C.C., P.B.), and Caltech HSS and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (R.B.). Thanks to D. Biro for task design, to M. Tanaka for help in building the touch-panel setup, to I. Adachi, M. Hayashi, and M. Tomonaga for overseeing chimpanzee experiments, and to the Center for Human Evolution Modeling and Research and members of the Section on Language and Intelligence of Primate Research Institute for daily care of the chimpanzees. Author contributions: Design (C.M., C.C., P.B., T.M.); research (C.M.); new analyses (R.B., P.B.); analyzed data (R.B., C.M., P.B., C.C.); wrote paper (C.C., C.M., T.M., R.B.). Additional information: Supplementary information accompanies this paper at http://www.nature.com/scientificreports Competing financial interests: The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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