Post-conflict Social Events in Wild Mountain Gorillas. II. Redirection, Side Direction, and Consolation


Duke University, Wheeler Building, 3705B Erwin Rd., Durham, NC 27705, USA.


Inevitably, members of primate groups sometimes have aggressive contests with each other. Targets of aggression can engage in several types of interaction with third parties to ameliorate its adverse effects. They can redirect aggression, which may reduce the risk of further aggression from the initial opponents and reduce tension, or they can initiate affinitive interactions with third parties, in order to seek protection or reassurance. They can also receive reassuring acts from them (‘consolation’). Researchers have documented high levels of redirection in many primate species, but consolation is thus far known only in chimpanzees. Data on post-conflict social interactions between targets of aggression and third parties in two groups of wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) show that immatures and subordinate males, but not females, redirect aggression at high rates. Furthermore, immatures seek affinitive interactions with their mothers, and adult females seek them with adult males, at elevated rates. Affinitive interactions between females and males seem mainly to have a protective function and are associated with decreased risks of further aggression between female opponents. Redirection by females after female-female conflicts may be uncommon because targets commonly retaliate against aggressors. Males may offer females protection and consolation as services, and the results support the argument that such services are important when dominance relationships between females are often undecided and retaliation between opponents is common.