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Evidence of joint commitment in great apes’ natural joint actions

Heesen, R.; Zuberbühler, K.; Bangerter, A.; Iglesias, K.; Rossano, F.; Pajot, A.; Guéry, J.P.; Genty, E.

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K. Zuberbühler

A. Bangerter

K. Iglesias

F. Rossano

A. Pajot

J.P. Guéry

E. Genty


Human joint action seems special, as it is grounded in joint commitment—a sense of mutual obligation participants feel towards each other. Comparative research with humans and non-human great apes has typically investigated joint commitment by experimentally interrupting joint actions to study subjects’ resumption strategies. However, such experimental interruptions are human-induced, and thus the question remains of how great apes naturally handle interruptions. Here, we focus on naturally occurring interruptions of joint actions, grooming and play, in bonobos and chimpanzees. Similar to humans, both species frequently resumed interrupted joint actions (and the previous behaviours, like grooming the same body part region or playing the same play type) with their previous partners and at the previous location. Yet, the probability of resumption attempts was unaffected by social bonds or rank. Our data suggest that great apes experience something akin to joint commitment, for which we discuss possible evolutionary origins.


Heesen, R., Zuberbühler, K., Bangerter, A., Iglesias, K., Rossano, F., Pajot, A., …Genty, E. (2021). Evidence of joint commitment in great apes’ natural joint actions. Royal Society Open Science, 8(12), Article 211121.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 8, 2021
Online Publication Date Dec 8, 2021
Publication Date 2021-12
Deposit Date Dec 13, 2021
Publicly Available Date Feb 2, 2022
Journal Royal Society Open Science
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 12
Article Number 211121


Published Journal Article (612 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
© 2021 The Authors.<br /> <br /> Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

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