Is solidarity a human thing?

Is solidarity a human thing?


The human being is a social animal and, therefore, cooperation, empathy and solidarity are part of the development of fiercely human attitudes and emotions with which we are endowed by nature.

But there are other social animals with complex behavior that can also show acts of collaboration. Up to what point?

A recent study from the University of Michigan has discovered that the cooperative spirit is more deeply rooted in primates than we thought. In fact, when it comes to making decisions, chimpanzees are quicker to act if the decision benefits others than it does for them.

For decades, ethologists have studied the behavior of primates because they know they are our closest cousins. In the case of chimpanzees, for example, it has been possible to detect collaborative behaviors, teamwork and partnership in an infinity of scenarios. So the analysis of these behaviors can serve as a clue to the study of the origins of human collaborative behavior.

One of these works has analyzed the response time in decision making of chimpanzees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in different scenarios. The group investigated consisted of 40 individuals who were faced with various tasks. One of them was to offer the animal the possibility of obtaining food for itself or offering help to a congener to obtain it together. In all cases, the decision to collaborate was faster than eating selfishly.

In some way, the instinctive reaction of the animal is to establish an alliance for the search for food. That reaction is practically automatic. When the chimpanzee shows some doubts and thinks twice, he usually ends up choosing the non-collaborative option.

Some of the most striking examples of collaborative and solidary behavior include bringing an object or food that is out of reach of another individual, supporting with one's own body while another performs some task or subjecting each other objects.

It has also been shown that chimpanzees also have the capacity to react to injustices. For example, they tend to try to block the action of an animal that is stealing food from a mate. Not only protect their heritage, but also jointly protect the other's.

In other words, it seems evident that certain primates have developed a certain capacity for solidary behavior that implies the use of cognitive tools perhaps similar to those used by human beings.

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