The identification and recruitment of trustworthy partners represents an important adaptive challenge for any species that relies heavily on cooperation [1, 2]. From an evolutionary perspective, trust is difficult to account for as it involves, by definition, a risk of non-reciprocation and defection by cheaters [3, 4]. One solution for this problem is to form close emotional bonds, i.e., friendships, which enable trust even in contexts where cheating would be profitable [5]. Little is known about the evolutionary origins of the human tendency to form close social bonds to overcome the trust problem. Studying chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), one of our closest living relatives, is one way of identifying these origins. While a growing body of research indicates that at least some of the properties of close human relationships find parallels in the social bonds of chimpanzees [6-10] and that chimpanzees extend favors preferentially toward selected individuals [11-14], it is unclear whether such interactions are based on trust. To fill this gap in knowledge, we observed the social interactions of a group of chimpanzees and established dyadic friendship relations. We then presented chimpanzees with a modified, non-verbal version of the human trust game and found that chimpanzees trust their friends significantly more frequently than their non-friends. These results suggest that trust within closely bonded dyads is not unique to humans but rather has its evolutionary roots in the social relationships of our closest primate relatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-256
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number2
Early online date14 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2016


  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal/physiology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Friends
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Pan troglodytes/metabolism
  • Social Behavior
  • Trust


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