Importance of cooperation and affiliation in the evolution of primate sociality



The idea that competition and aggression are central to an understanding of the origins of group-living and sociality among human and nonhuman primates is the dominant theory in primatology today. Using this paradigm, researchers have focused their attention on competitive and aggressive behaviors, and have tended to overlook the importance of cooperative and affiliative behaviors. However, cooperative and affiliative behaviors are considerably more common than agonistic behaviors in all primate species. The current paradigm often fails to explain the context, function, and social tactics underlying affiliative and agonistic behavior. Here, we present data on a basic question of primate sociality: how much time do diurnal, group-living primates spend in social behavior, and how much of this time is affiliative and agonistic? These data are derived from a survey of 81 studies, including 28 genera and 60 species. We find that group-living prosimians, New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, and apes usually devote less than 10% of their activity budget to active social interactions. Further, rates of agonistic behaviors are extremely low, normally less than 1% of the activity budget. If the cost to the actors of affiliative behavior is low even if the rewards are low or extremely variable, we should expect affiliation and cooperation to be frequent. This is especially true under conditions in which individuals benefit from the collective environment of living in stable social groups. Am J Phys Anthropol 128:84–97, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.