Research ArticleLIFE SCIENCES

Bonobos engage in joint commitment

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Science Advances  18 Dec 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 51, eabd1306
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd1306


Joint action is central to human nature, enabling collectives to achieve goals otherwise unreachable by individuals. It is enabled by humans’ capacity to understand and engage in joint commitments. Joint commitments are evidenced when partners in interrupted joint actions reengage one another. To date, there is no clear evidence whether nonhuman animals understand joint commitment, suggesting that only humans experience it. Here, we revisit this claim by interrupting bonobos engaged in social activities. Bonobos reliably resumed the activity, and the likelihood of resumption was higher for social compared to solitary activities. Furthermore, communicative efforts deployed to suspend and resume social activities varied depending on partners’ social relationships and interactive roles. Our results suggest that bonobos, like humans, engage in joint commitment and have some awareness of the social consequences of breaking it.

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