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While traditional economic models assume that agents are self-interested, humans and most non-human primates are social species. Therefore, many of decisions they make require the integration of information about other social agents. This study asks to what extent information about social status and the social context in which decisions are taken impact on reward-guided decisions in rhesus macaques. We tested 12 monkeys of varying dominance status in several experimental versions of a two-choice task in which reward could be delivered to self only, only another monkey, both the self and another monkey, or neither. Results showed dominant animals were more prone to make prosocial choices than subordinates, but only when the decision was between a reward for self only and a reward for both self and other. If the choice was between a reward for self only and a reward for other only, no animal expressed altruistic behaviour. Finally, prosocial choices were true social decisions as they were strikingly reduced when the social partner was replaced by a non-social object. These results showed that as in humans, rhesus macaques' social decisions are adaptive and modulated by social status and the cost associated with being prosocial. This article is part of the theme issue 'Existence and prevalence of economic behaviours among non-human primates'.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





cost, prosociality, reward, rhesus macaque, social status, Altruism, Animals, Choice Behavior, Macaca mulatta, Reward, Social Behavior