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Young Children Collaborate Better Than Chimps

THURSDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Human children are more likely than chimpanzees to collaborate when solving a problem, a new study finds.

Researchers compared the responses of 3-year-old children in Germany with semi-free-ranging chimpanzees in a Democratic Republic of Congo sanctuary.

Both the children and the chimps were given a task they could do on their own or with a partner. Individuals could pull two ends of a rope themselves in order to get a food reward or pull one end while a partner pulled the other end.

The children cooperated 78 percent of the time, compared with 58 percent for the chimps.

The findings suggest that minor motivational variations may be the basis of behavioral differences between humans and other species, according to study author Daniel Haun, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

The study appears online Oct. 13 in the journal Current Biology.

"A preference to do things together instead of alone differentiates humans from one of our closely related primate cousins," Haun said in a journal news release. "Once we know the underlying motivations of this tendency, we will have learned something new about human nature that differentiates it from chimpanzee nature."

He and his colleagues noted that human societies are built on collaboration and children learn the value of collaboration at an early age.

Future research should compare collaboration among a number of primate species in an effort to learn more about the evolutionary history of the trait, the study authors said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics outlines normal child behavior.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Current Biology, news release, Oct. 10, 2011

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