Inequity aversion in relation to effort and relationship quality in long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis)


Correspondence to: Jorg J.M. Massen, Kruijt building Room O 204, Padualaan 8, 3584 CH Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Social animals may employ evolved implicit rules to maintain a balance between cooperation and competition. Inequity aversion (IA), the aversive reaction to an unequal distribution of resources, is considered such a rule to avoid exploitation between cooperating individuals. Recent studies have revealed the presence of IA in several nonhuman species. In addition, it has been shown that an effort is crucial for this behavior to occur in animals. Moreover, IA may well depend on the partner's identity. Although dominant individuals typically monopolize food, subordinate individuals obtain less preferred food and usually do not protest. Furthermore, “friends” may pay less attention to equity than “nonfriends.” We tested whether long-tailed macaques show IA with different cost–benefit ratios. In addition, we determined whether IA depends on relationship quality (RQ). Dominant subjects expressed IA only when a small effort was required. At a very large effort, however, long-tailed macaques did not show IA, possibly owing to bottom effects on the number of rewards they aim to receive. Moreover, and contrary to our predictions, an individual's inequity response was similar when tested with a “friend” or a “nonfriend.” Therefore, we conclude that long-tailed macaques show IA only in conditions of moderate effort, yet that IA seems independent of RQ. Furthermore, IA may not be domain specific. Altogether, IA may be a trait present in all species that habitually cooperate, independent of their social organization.