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Coordinating decisions for cooperation: insights from a comparative perspective

The CEU Campus
Thursday, January 17, 2019, 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

One of the challenges of achieving successful cooperation is coordinating our decisions and actions. This is a challenge we share with many other social species, including our closest living relatives, the great apes. The comparison of how great apes and humans solve coordination problems provide insights into the evolution of human cooperation. Of particular interest is how communication functions as a coordination tool. A closer look at how and when individuals communicate, not only informs us about their communication skills but also about the nature of the cooperative interaction. I will present findings from behavioural experiments presenting children and great apes with a range of coordination problems; including situations in which partners have a common goal and those in which they have to overcome conflicts of interest. These findings show that all species demonstrate the ability to coordinate their decisions effectively across a range of situations but that the means to coordinate can differ. Even though chimpanzees and bonobos have communicative tools to mediate everyday social interactions, communication appears to play a relatively minor role in facilitating coordination in. I will discuss why we see this discrepancy, including the potential role of the experimental paradigms.