Symposium - "Not strictly human? Evidence for prosocial tendencies in various animal taxa"

Keynote speakers: Lisa Horn (Austria) & Martin Schmelz (Germany)

Altruism and other-regarding preferences have long been considered a unique feature of human social behavior. However, in recent years evidence has accumulated to support the idea that some non-human animal species exhibit prosocial tendencies, meaning that individuals spontaneously assist others at no or low cost to themselves. Since these results were first put forward, researchers have tried to understand the evolutionary origins of such tendencies. However, most studies have concentrated on non-human primates and other taxa have not yet been thoroughly investigated. Therefore, our picture of the evolution of prosocial tendencies remains incomplete. Further, even for well-researched species – e.g. our closest relatives, the great apes – results in experimental studies have been mixed. While chimpanzees were shown to help conspecifics in some contexts, they did not show clear prosocial tendencies when food was at stake, thereby emphasizing the strong impact of test methods and conditions on other-regarding behavior.
This symposium will highlight how we can advance the understanding of the evolution of prosocial tendencies by including other taxa (e.g. different bird species) and by exploring different test methods. We will show that prosocial behavior is not limited to primates and that similar evolutionary pressures might have shaped social tolerance and prosocial tendencies in distantly related taxa. Additionally, we present evidence that performance of prosocial behavior strongly depends on the circumstances under which a given species is tested.


The European Conference of Behavioural Biology | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien