Postconflict Behavior of Captive Brown Capuchins in the Presence and Absence of Attractive Food

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Most of what we know about postconflict behavior comes from studies on chimpanzees and other Old World semiarboreal and semiterrestrial species. Few studies have investigated whether the context of a fight affects reconciliation—selective postconflict attraction between former opponents—and consolation: selective attraction between conflict participants and other group members. We studied social conflict and its aftermath in two captive groups of brown capuchins (Cebus apella), an arboreal New World species. We observed postconflict behavior in two contexts: (1) during the presence of highly attractive, clumped food—food condition—and (2) in the absence of such food—nonfood condition. Commercial monkey chow was available ad libitum in the nonfood condition. A comparison of postconflict and control observations revealed a conciliatory tendency in the capuchins, but only following fights that occurred in the absence of highly attractive food. Other group members tended not to seek postconflict contact with former conflict participants. However, when shortly after fights recipients of aggression, but not aggressors, initiated affiliation with third parties, the latter not only allowed proximity or contact but also often reciprocated through grooming, play, and especially the exchange of friendly signals. We discuss these results within the framework of current knowledge of postconflict behavior with special emphasis on similarities and differences in the postconflict behavior of Cebus and Pan.

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