Resolving Conflicts -- What We Can Learn From The Apes

January 24, 1999

Are you the type who likes to avoid conflict, or at least patch up a rift as quickly as possible? Such tendencies may have an evolutionary basis. Research in chimpanzees by Frans de Waal at Yerkes Primate Research Center shows that conflict and conflict resolution are integrated parts of social relationships, determined by social factors and modifiable by the social environment. Dr. de Waal will lecture on "Natural Conflict Resolution" at the 1999 AAAS Annual Meeting and Science Innovation Exposition in Anaheim, California on January 24th, from 8:00 - 8:45 a.m.

"Competition among chimpanzees is held in check by the fact that competitors are also quite valuable as partners in cooperative endeavors," says Dr. de Waal. This aggression is quelled and relationships more quickly repaired when the relationship is viewed as a useful one.

Previous studies of reconciliation behavior, first observed in chimpanzees in the late 1970s, gradually developed into an investigation of conflict resolution, including behaviors such as food sharing and alleviating the distress of others. Dr. de Waal will discuss the implications of these conciliatory mechanisms on our view of aggressive competition.

As the Director of Yerkes' Living Links Center, Dr. de Waal's research focuses on humanity's connection to its evolutionary past. Having studied chimp societies for many years and authoring numerous scientific papers and books, de Waal's research of chimpanzees and other primates illustrates how reconciliation and consolation serve to repair social relationships within the complex social system of primates, and what we can derive from this process.

Emory University Health Sciences Center

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