Animal behaviour (communication arising)

Inequity aversion in capuchins?


Brosnan and de Waal1 have shown that capuchin monkeys are more likely to reject a cucumber slice after seeing that another capuchin has received a more attractive grape. In interpreting this finding, the authors make a link to work in humans on ‘inequity aversion’ and suggest that capuchins, like humans, may reject rewards because they are averse to unequal pay-offs. Here I argue that this interpretation suffers from three problems: the results contradict the predictions of the inequity-aversion model that Bosnan and de Waal cite2; experimental results indicate that humans do not behave like capuchins in similar circumstances; and the available evidence does not suggest that inequity aversion is cross-culturally universal3,4,5.

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  1. 1

    Brosnan, S. & de Waal, F. B. M. Nature 425, 297–299 (2003).

  2. 2

    Fehr, E. & Schmidt, K. M. Q. J. Econ. 114, 817–868 (1999).

  3. 3

    Henrich, J. et al. (eds) Foundations of Human Sociality: Economic Experiments and Ethnographic Evidence from 15 Small-Scale Societies (Oxford University Press, New York, in the press).

  4. 4

    Henrich, J. Am. Econ. Rev. 90, 973–980 (2000).

  5. 5

    Henrich, J. et al. Am. Econ. Rev. 91, 73–78 (2001).

  6. 6

    Bolton, G. E. & Zwick, R. Games Econ. Behav. 10, 95–121 (1995).

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Correspondence to Joseph Henrich.

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Henrich, J. Inequity aversion in capuchins?. Nature 428, 139 (2004).

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