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Chimpanzees help conspecifics achieve their goals in instrumental situations, but neither their immediate motivation nor the evolutionary basis of their motivation is clear. In the current study, we gave chimpanzees the opportunity to instrumentally help a conspecific to obtain food. Following recent studies with human children, we measured their pupil diameter at various points in the process. Like young children, chimpanzees' pupil diameter decreased soon after they had helped. However, unlike children, chimpanzees' pupils remained more dilated upon watching a third party provide the needed help instead of them. Our interpretation is that chimpanzees are motivated to help others, and the evolutionary basis is direct or indirect reciprocity, as providing help oneself sets the conditions for a payback. This is in contrast to young children whose goal is to see others being helped-by whomever-presumably because their helping is not based on reciprocity. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

Original publication




Journal article


J Comp Psychol

Publication Date





196 - 207