Frans B. M. de Waal's research while affiliated with Emory University and other places

Publications (302)

Article
This opinion piece aims to tackle the biological, psychological, neural and cultural underpinnings of laughter from a naturalistic and evolutionary perspective. A naturalistic account of laughter requires the revaluation of two dogmas of a longstanding philosophical tradition, that is, the quintessential link between laughter and humour, and the un...
Presentation
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One contribution of 17 to a theme issue 'Cracking the laugh code: laughter through the lens of biology, psychology, and neuroscience'.
Article
Do animals, including invertebrates, have felt emotions and does this morally matter?
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Do nonhuman animals (henceforth, animals) have emotions, and if so, are these similar to ours? This opinion piece aims to add to the recent debate about this question and provides a critical re-evaluation of what can be concluded about animal and human emotions. Emotions, and their cognitive interpretation, i.e., feelings, serve important survival...
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Empathy—the sharing and understanding of others’ emotions and thoughts—is considered a defining feature of what it means to be human. Although empathy underpins many of our social interactions and is thought to be evolutionarily ancient, its origins remain relatively obscure. Here, this chapter presents research investigating socioemotional develop...
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150 years of The Descent of Man Charles Darwin's The Descent of Man was published in 1871. Ever since, it has been the foundation stone of human evolutionary studies. Richerson et al. reviewed how modern studies of human biological and cultural evolution reflect the ideas in Darwin's work. They emphasize how cooperation, social learning, and cumula...
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The field of comparative behavioural economics investigates decisions about the acquisition and exchange of goods and services. It does so in both humans and other species on the assumption that the cognition and emotions involved have a shared evolutionary background. This preface roughly defines the field and reviews a few selected early studies...
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Wild female chimpanzees typically migrate to a neighbouring community at the onset of sexual maturity, a process that can be dangerous and unpredictable. To mitigate the risk of rejection in the new community, immigrants may employ several behavioural strategies. During the integration of two chimpanzee females at Royal Burgers’ Zoo (Arnhem, The Ne...
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Despite increasing interest in animal emotions, jealousy has rarely been directly addressed in comparative research, except for studies of human-pet interactions. Jealous behavior emerges when a valuable social bond is threatened by a third-party, prompting aggression or intervention attempts to direct the partner’s attention away from the rival. E...
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In the operating room (OR), opaque drapes are hung between the anesthesia workstation and the operating table. Because OR teams are transient and hierarchical, social order is continuously being negotiated around this partition. We hypothesized that drape transparency, a tool for reimagining the physical and symbolic confines of the OR, might alter...
Article
In cooperative hunting, a carcass cannot be divided equally, and hunts may be unsuccessful. We studied how chimpanzees respond to these two variables, working for unequal rewards and no rewards, which have been rarely included in experimental cooperative tasks. We presented chimpanzees with a task requiring three chimpanzees to work together and va...
Preprint
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We argue that research on human origins and our subsequent cultural and social evolution is vital not only for foundational scientific discovery but also for understanding, mitigating, and solving the most pressing challenges faced by our society. Advancing research on human origins and social complexity is also very timely given recent advances an...
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Comparative thanatology encompasses the study of death-related responses in non-human animals and aspires to elucidate the evolutionary origins of human behavior in the context of death. Many reports have revealed that humans are not the only species affected by the death of group members. Non-human primates in particular show behaviors such as con...
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The mirror mark test has encouraged a binary view of self-awareness according to which a few species possess this capacity whereas others do not. Given how evolution works, however, we need a more gradualist model of the various ways in which animals construe a self and respond to mirrors. The recent study on cleaner wrasses (Labroides dimidiatus)...
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Social risk is a domain of risk in which the costs, benefits, and uncertainty of an action depend on the behavior of another individual. Humans overvalue the costs of a socially risky decision when compared with that of purely economic risk. Here, we played a trust game with 8 female captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) to determine whether this b...
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Whereas the feelings of other beings are private and may always remain so, emotions are simultaneously manifested in behavior, physiology, and other observables. Nonetheless, uncertainty about whether emotions can be studied adequately across species has promoted skepticism about their very presence in other parts of the animal kingdom. Studying so...
Chapter
The possibility that animals may have empathy has until recently received little attention. Part of the reason may have been excessive fear of anthropomorphism and a taboo on animal emotions. Change has come from studies of consolation behavior and yawn contagion in primates (and other mammals), the discovery of mirror neurons in macaques, as well...
Article
Significance Hierarchy and gender composition affect the balance of cooperation and conflict on surgical teams. In this investigation, behavior was quantified with methods traditionally used to study nonhuman primate groups. Observers used an ethogram to timestamp 6,348 spontaneous social interactions from 200 surgical procedures. Conflict and coop...
Article
This is an interview with Frans de Waal who gave the Kohlberg Memorial Lecture at the AME Conference in St. Louis in November 2017. Frans de Waal’s research with non-human primates documents that primates share our tendencies towards fairness, reciprocity, loyalty, self-sacrifice, caring for others, strategies for conflict avoidance and for conflic...
Chapter
Given that the cognitive and affective processes underlying empathy do not fossilize, studies of the empathic capacities of nonhuman primates provide us with a critical window through which we can explore the evolutionary origins of human empathy. Specifically, the comparative method provides an opportunity to determine which features of empathy ar...
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Despite many observations of cooperation in nature, laboratory studies often fail to find careful coordination between individuals who are solving a cooperative task. Further, individuals tested are often naïve to cooperative tasks and there has been little exploration of partnerships with mixed expertise. In the current study, we examined acquisit...
Chapter
Moral psychology has undergone a renaissance in recent years. Methodological and theoretical advances promise new perspectives on old questions—and as academic disciplines become less siloed, the potential for cross-disciplinary collaboration becomes even greater. In this chapter, we ask leading scholars to offer their views on the future of moral...
Preprint
This moderated dialogue between Frans de Waal and Evan Thompson explores the nature of empathy and compassion.
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Among nonhuman primates, the evolutionary underpinnings of variation in social structure remain debated, with both ancestral relationships and adaptation to current conditions hypothesized to play determining roles. Here we assess whether interspecific variation in higher-order aspects of female macaque (genus: Macaca) dominance and grooming social...
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In contrast to a wealth of human studies, little is known about the ontogeny and consistency of empathy-related capacities in other species. Consolation - post-conflict affiliation from uninvolved bystanders to distressed others - is a suggested marker of empathetic concern in non-human animals. Using longitudinal data comprising nearly a decade of...
Article
Recent research on empathy in humans and other mammals seeks to dissociate emotional and cognitive empathy. These forms, however, remain interconnected in evolution, across species and at the level of neural mechanisms. New data have facilitated the development of empathy models such as the perception-action model (PAM) and mirror-neuron theories....
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A comprehensive tome explores the biology of our behavior
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Research highlights: Cross correlations show a subordinate chimpanzee tactically deceived a dominant by not gazing toward a valuable food (withholding), and recruiting to a "decoy" food (misleading). Chimpanzees understand that others can exploit their gaze direction.
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Tufted or brown capuchin monkeys (Sapajus apella) have been shown to recognize conspecific faces as well as categorize them according to group membership. Little is known, though, about their capacity to differentiate between emotionally charged facial expressions or whether facial expressions are processed as a collection of features or configural...
Article
Schmidt and Tomasello (1) argue that our study (2) constitutes a replication of previous research and that we “constrained” the set-up to ensure that competition did not undermine collaboration. But in fact, the whole point of our set-up was to permit competition as well as free partner choice, something no study has done before. The studies Schmid...
Article
Of all the human uniqueness claims proposed over the years, theory of mind enjoys perhaps the most prominent status. The term “theory of mind” refers to the ability to know what others know, that is, to attribute mental states such as intentions, goals, and knowledge to others. It is widely held to be unique to humans. Yet, given the results report...
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Significance Competitive tendencies may make it hard for members of a group to cooperate with each other. Humans use many different “enforcement” strategies to keep competition in check and favor cooperation. To test whether one of our closest relatives uses similar strategies, we gave a group of chimpanzees a cooperative problem that required join...
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Oxytocin has been suggested as a treatment to promote positive social interactions in people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, it is difficult to test this effect outside of the laboratory in realistic social situations. One way to resolve this issue is to study behavioral changes in closely related species with complex social relation...
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A recent report suggested that chimpanzees demonstrate the cognitive capacities necessary to understand cooking (Warneken & Rosati, 2015). We offered alternative explanations and mechanisms that could account for the behavioral responses of those chimpanzees, and questioned the manner in which the data were used to examine human evolution (Beran, H...
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Research has shown that great apes possess certain expectations about social regularities and both perceive and act according to social rules within their group. During natural and experimentally induced contexts, such as the inequitable distribution of resources, individuals also show protesting behaviors when their expectations about a social sit...
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Background The operating room (OR) is a highly social and hierarchical setting where interprofessional team members must work interdependently under pressure. Due primarily to methodological challenges, the social and behavioral sciences have had trouble offering insight into OR dynamics. Purpose We adopted a method from the field of ethology for o...
Article
Let me comfort you Consolation behavior promotes stress reduction of one by another. We know that consolation occurs in humans and apes. Burkett et al. observed that within a pair of monogamous prairie voles, an unstressed partner increased its grooming of a stressed partner. Furthermore, the unstressed partner matched the stressed partner in its s...
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A recent report suggested that chimpanzees demonstrate the cognitive capacities necessary to understand cooking (Warneken & Rosati, 2015). We offer alternate explanations and mechanisms that could account for the behavioral responses of those chimpanzees, without invoking the understanding of cooking as a process. We discuss broader issues surround...
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Coalitions and alliances are ubiquitous in humans and many other mammals, being part of the fabric of complex social systems. Field biologists and ethologists have accumulated a vast amount of data on coalition and alliance formation, while theoretical biologists have developed modelling approaches. With the accumulation of empirical data and sophi...
Chapter
The emotions are a neglected area of research in our close relatives, the primates. Instead of focusing on a nonexistent field of study, this chapter seeks to convey the social sophistication of the primates, making it obvious why emotion regulation is useful. Primates live in a hierarchical world, which requires them to suppress certain impulses i...
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Recent scientific data suggests that human prosocial behavior is more than just a product of education, culture, and religion. Instead, it seems that the seeds of morality may have a long history in our brains. Frans B. M. de Waal welcomes an accessible introduction to the biology and neuroscience of prosociality in a review of The Altruistic Brain...
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The human sense of fairness is an evolutionary puzzle. To study this, we can look to other species, in which this can be translated empirically into responses to reward distribution. Passive and active protest against receiving less than a partner for the same task is widespread in species that cooperate outside kinship and mating bonds. There is l...
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In a dyadic informed forager task, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are known to exploit the knowledge of informed subordinates; however, the behavioral mechanisms they employ are unknown. It is tempting to interpret outcome measures, such as which individual obtained the food, in a cognitively richer way than the outcomes may justify. We employed a d...
Chapter
Since animals devote large portions of their waking hours acquiring the food necessary for survival, why do they sometimes give it away? This behavior, called food sharing, is relatively simple to explain in some contexts, such as mothers feeding their dependent offspring. However, in other cases sharing occurs between unrelated individuals, requir...
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Reports an error in "Chimpanzees Prefer African and Indian Music Over Silence" by Morgan E. Mingle, Timothy M. Eppley, Matthew W. Campbell, Katie Hall, Victoria Horner and Frans B. M. de Waal ( Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition , Advanced Online Publication, Jun 23, 2014, np). For the article, the below files were us...
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All primates have an ability to distinguish between temporal and melodic features of music, but unlike humans, in previous studies, nonhuman primates have not demonstrated a preference for music. However, previous research has not tested the wide range of acoustic parameters present in many different types of world music. The purpose of the present...
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The purpose of the present study was to push the boundaries of cooperation among captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). There has been doubt about the level of cooperation that chimpanzees are able to spontaneously achieve or understand. Would they, without any pre-training or restrictions in partner choice, be able to develop successful joint acti...
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In recent years, the presence of stable individual variation in animal behaviour has been corroborated by studies across a wide variety of taxa and research disciplines. Reconciliation, or postconflict affiliation between former opponents, is a behavioural domain in which individual differences have not been systematically studied. Using a long-ter...
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Human empathy can extend to strangers and even other species, but it is unknown whether non-humans are similarly broad in their empathic responses. We explored the breadth and flexibility of empathy in chimpanzees, a close relative of humans. We used contagious yawning to measure involuntary empathy and showed chimpanzees videos of familiar humans,...
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Contact directed by uninvolved bystanders toward others in distress, often termed consolation, is uncommon in the animal kingdom, thus far only demonstrated in the great apes, canines, and corvids. Whereas the typical agonistic context of such contact is relatively rare within natural elephant families, other causes of distress may trigger similar,...
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Humans will, at times, act against their own economic self-interest, for example, in gambling situations. To explore the evolutionary roots of this behavior, we modified a traditional human gambling task, the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), for use with chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys and humans. We expanded the traditional task to include two additional p...
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The evolution of behavior is sometimes considered irrelevant to the issue of human morality, since it lacks the normative character of morality (‘ought’), and consist entirely of descriptions of how things are or came about (‘is’). Evolved behavior, including that of other animals, is not entirely devoid of normativity, however. Defining normativit...
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Sexual contacts are thought to play an important role in regulating social tension in bonobos (Pan paniscus), and are especially common following aggressive conflicts, either between former opponents or involving bystanders. Nevertheless, research on the factors determining post-conflict sexual contacts, their effectiveness in reducing social tensi...
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Table of Contents 1. Evolution A history of the altruism-morality debate in biology Oren Harman The moral consequences of social selection Christopher Boehm Natural normativity: The "is" and "ought" of animal behavior Frans de Waal 2. Meta-ethics Empiricism and normative ethics: What do the biology and the psychology of morality have to do with eth...
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Significance Across human development, individuals better able to manage their own emotions show greater social competence and more empathic concern for others. To test this interplay between social and emotional skills in one of our closest relatives, we collected behavioral measures on bonobos ( Pan paniscus ) with different rearing backgrounds a...
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Humans are fascinated by animal monogamy. In the 1960s, Konrad Lorenz idealized the lifelong pair-bonds of geese until one of his students pointed out some infidelities and suggested that geese may be “only human” (1), and Desmond Morris (2) speculated about the advantages of the pair-bond for early humans. Even though many theories have since been...
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We appreciate the methodological concerns of Henrich and Silk (1), which resemble those of Jensen et al. (2). Both critiques focus on the lack of refusals by the responders in our ultimatum game (UG) (3), an option on which the subjects were never trained. As discussed previously (4, 5), we fail to see how this lack of refusals would invalidate the...
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Species comparisons of personality structure (i.e., how many personality dimensions and the characteristics of those dimensions) can facilitate questions about the adaptive function of personality in nonhuman primates. Here we investigate personality structure in the brown capuchin monkey (Sapajus apella), a New World primate species, and compare t...
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Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have been frequently observed to share food with one another, with numerous hypotheses proposed to explain why. These often focus on reciprocity exchanges for social benefits (e.g., food for grooming, food for sex, affiliation, kinship, and dominance rank) as well as sharing based on begging and deterring harassment. A...
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When playing the ultimatum game, chimpanzees and children shifted their behavior from selfish offers in the preference test to more equitable ones in the ultimatum game (1). Why did they do so? All that we can measure is behavior, not motivations. Nonetheless, in human studies equitable outcomes are interpreted as reflecting a sense of fairness, th...
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Humans can behave fairly, but can other species? Recently we tested chimpanzees on a classic human test for fairness, the Ultimatum Game, and found that they behaved similarly to humans. In humans, Ultimatum Game behavior is cited as evidence for a human sense of fairness. By that same logic, we concluded that chimpanzees behaved fairly in our rece...
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Field studies show that both whales and vervet monkeys acquire feeding behaviors through social learning.
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How animals respond to conflict provides key insights into the evolution of socio-cognitive and emotional capacities. Evidence from apes has shown that, after social conflicts, bystanders approach victims of aggression to offer stress-alleviating contact behavior, a phenomenon known as consolation. This other-orientated behavior depends on sensitiv...
Data
List of definitions of affiliation behaviours. (DOCX)
Data
Separate group analyses for Wilcoxon signed-rank tests of consolation and reconciliation. (DOCX)
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Is the sense of fairness uniquely human? Human reactions to reward division are often studied by means of the ultimatum game, in which both partners need to agree on a distribution for both to receive rewards. Humans typically offer generous portions of the reward to their partner, a tendency our close primate relatives have thus far failed to show...
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Both wild and captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) share food with non-relatives. Researchers have proposed several hypotheses to explain this behavior, including 'food for sex', 'food for grooming or agonistic support', and 'sharing under pressure'. We examined food sharing in two captive groups of socially-housed chimpanzees. In contrast to prev...
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The debate about the origins of human prosociality has focused on the presence or absence of similar tendencies in other species, and, recently, attention has turned to the underlying mechanisms. We investigated whether direct reciprocity could promote prosocial behavior in brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Twelve capuchins tested in pairs cou...
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In the last decade, there has been an explosion of work investigating non-human species’ behavior as it relates to the human sense of fairness and justice. This research has provided a much needed evolutionary perspective on humans, and highlighted ways in which humans’ behavior is both similar to and different from that of other species. In this c...
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The view of humans as violent war-prone apes is poorly supported by archaeological evidence and only partly supported by the behavior of our closest primate relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos. Whereas the first species is marked by xenophobia, the second is relatively peaceful and highly empathic in both behavior and brain organization. Animal empa...
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A recent report by the Institute of Medicine leaves few urgent reasons standing for the continued use of chimpanzees in biomedical research. It is high time to think about their retirement, Frans de Waal argues, without neglecting prospects for non-invasive research on behavior, cognition, and genetics.
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Nonhuman primates show remarkable variation in several aspects of social structure. One way to characterize this variation in the genus Macaca is through the concept of social style, which is based on the observation that several social traits appear to covary with one another in a linear or at least continuous manner. In practice, macaques are mor...
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Phylogenetic models of primate social behaviour posit that core social traits are inherent species characteristics that depend largely on phylogenetic histories of species rather than on adaptation to current socioecological conditions. These models predict that aspects of social structure will vary more between species than within species and that...
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Capuchin monkeys, as well as several other primate species, show food-related tolerance in both captive and wild settings. Although researchers have revealed that past experience affects foodrelated tolerance, it is unclear if and how observing a partner's previous food consumption affects tolerance. This question is important to determine the prox...
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Frans de Waal pays tribute to pioneering primatologist Toshisada Nishida, who transformed our understanding of chimpanzee behavior and culture and galvanized efforts to ensure their conservation.