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We’re not alone in wanting our fair share, scientists say. Many species that cooperate—including primates, wolves, and some types of fish—are able to recognize when they’re getting the short end of the stick. 

Fair is Fair? Ask a Chimp.

October 13, 2014

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We’re not alone in wanting our fair share, scientists say. Many species that cooperate—including primates, wolves, and some types of fish—are able to recognize when they’re getting the short end of the stick.

Primate researchers recently found that chimpanzees and a few species of monkeys carry this sense of fairness even further. When they work with a partner to receive a reward, and one gets a tastier treat, the unlucky primate often expresses anger. More surprisingly, the lucky one sometimes throws away the treat.

Researchers say that preserving relationships and long-term cooperation matter more to these highly social species than the immediate reward. This sort of long view of social gain seems to be unique to humans and a few primate cousins.

Individuals who demand equal treatment may even have an evolutionary advantage. Cornell economist Robert Frank told NPR:

If that’s the kind of person you are, then there’s some evidence that you do better in the world. People aren’t going to strike one-sided bargains with you; they’ll know not to mess with you.

Read more in NPR online.