Behavioral responsiveness to strangers in young chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

L. Cheryl Miller, Kim A. Bard, Charles J. Juno, Ronald D. Nadler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Earlier studies of responses of primate infants to strangers were frequently confounded with separation from the attachment figure and/or removal to an unfamiliar setting. In the present study, young chimpanzees were tested in a familiar setting with a human female caretaker who served as an attachment figure. Two strangers were introduced: a human female, approximately the size of the caretaker, who refrained from initiating interactions and a larger human male, who repeatedly approached and initiated contact with the subjects. A somewhat more intense response was elicited by the larger, more assertive male stranger, but neither stranger elicited severe distress. The behavior of the chimpanzees is better described as wary, rather than fearful. These results may be attributable to the continued presence of the caretaker in contrast to previous studies reporting severe distress to strangers when chimpanzees are tested alone. A wariness of strangers in nursery-reared chimpanzees may develop by 6 months of age and may diminish somewhat by 2 years of age under the conditions of this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-155
Number of pages14
JournalFolia Primatologica
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1990


  • Affiliative behavior
  • Attachment
  • Chimpanzees
  • Development
  • Distress
  • Fear
  • Infants
  • Response to strangers
  • Separation
  • Wariness


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