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Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Prefer to Cooperate When Petted: Integrating Proximate and Ultimate Explanations II

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  • Amir Perelberg
  • Richard Schuster

Abstract

Cooperation poses theoretical problems because the behaviors of individuals can benefit others. Evolutionary and game-theory explanations that focus on maximizing one's own material outcomes are usually supported by experimental models with isolated and anonymous subjects. Cooperation in the natural world, however, is often a social act whereby familiar individuals coordinate behaviors for shared outcomes. Social cooperation is also associated with a cooperation bias expressed as a preference for cooperation even when noncooperation is immediately more beneficial. The authors report on evidence for such a bias in a captive group of bottlenose dolphins that voluntarily preferred to receive petting from human guides by using a pairwise coordinated approach, even though this was more difficult, and total petting amount was thereby reduced. To explain why this bias occurs, the authors propose an integrated behavioral-evolutionary approach whereby performance is determined by two kinds of immediate outcomes: material gains and intrinsic affective states associated with cooperating. The latter can provide reinforcement when immediate material gains are reduced, delayed, or absent. Over a lifetime, this proximate mechanism can lead to cooperative relationships whose long-term ultimate consequences can be adaptive.

Suggested Citation

  • Amir Perelberg & Richard Schuster, 2009. "Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Prefer to Cooperate When Petted: Integrating Proximate and Ultimate Explanations II," Discussion Paper Series dp508, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  • Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp508
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