Vol 6, Issue 1, February 2019

Chimpanzees Rarely Settle on Consistent Patterns of Play in the Hawk Dove, Assurance, and Prisoner's Dilemma Games, in a Token Exchange Task


Hall, K., Smith, M., Russell, J. L., Lambeth, S.P. , Schapiro, S. J., & Brosnan, S. F. (2019). Chimpanzees rarely settle on consistent patterns of play in the Hawk Dove, Assurance, and Prisoner’s Dilemma games, in a token exchange task. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 6(1), 48–70. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Games derived from experimental economics can be used to directly compare decision-making behavior across primate species, including humans. For example, the use of coordination games, such as the Assurance game, has shown that a variety of primate species can coordinate; however, the mechanism by which they do so appears to differ across species. Recently, these games have been extended to explore anti-coordination and cooperation in monkeys, with evidence that they play the Nash equilibria in sequential games in these other contexts. In the current paper, we use the same methods to explore chimpanzees’ behavior in the Assurance Game; an anti-coordination game, the Hawk Dove game; and a cooperation game with a temptation to defect, the Prisoner’s Dilemma game. We predicted that they would consistently play the Nash equilibria, as do the monkeys, and that, as in previous work, the subjects’ level of experience with cognitive experiments would impact performance. Surprisingly, few of our pairs consistently played the same outcome (i.e., no statistically significant preferences), although those who did showed evidence consistent with Nash equilibria play, the same pattern seen more consistently in the monkeys. We consider reasons for their inconsistent performance; for instance, perhaps it was due to lack of interest in a task that rewarded them almost every trial no matter what option they chose, although this does not explain why they were inconsistent when the monkeys were not. A second goal of our study was to ascertain the effects of exogenous oxytocin in their decision making in one population. In line with recent work showing complex effects of oxytocin on social behavior, we found no effect on subjects’ outcomes. We consider possible explanations for this as well.


Coordination; Hawk dove game; Assurance game; Prisoner’s dilemma game; Pan troglodytes; Experimental economics; Intranasal oxytocin