Unlike Humans, Bonobos Shun Helpers and Befriend the Bullies

One test involved three strangers putting on a little skit in front of the apes. One actor played with a stuffed animal, laughing and throwing it in the air. The toy then fell out of reach, and a “helpful” actor picked it up and tried to return it to its owner. But before that could happen, however, a “mean” actor snatched it away and placed it in a bucket behind him. Then everyone stood up and approached the bonobo, who had been watching through the bars of a cage. The “helper” and “meanie” both offered a piece of food. “The bonobos weren’t very interested in the helper,” says Christopher Krupenye. Instead, they consistently chose to take food from the jerk. Humans might not want to interact with someone who is not nice, but it looks like bonobos interpret the meanie’s behavior as a sign of dominance.

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