Children actively chose to work together when given the option, while our close relative the chimpanzee has no such preference, says a new study.
Researchers from the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the MPI for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen discovered that when all else is equal, human children prefer to work together in solving a problem, rather than solve it on their own.
"A preference for doing things together instead of alone differentiates humans from one of our closely related primate cousins," said Daniel Haun of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
"We expected to find differences between human and chimpanzee cooperation, because humans cooperate in a larger variety of contexts and in more complex forms than chimpanzees," he stated.
The research team presented 3-year-old German children and chimpanzees living in a Congo Republic sanctuary with a task that they could perform on their own or with a partner.
"In such a highly controlled situation, children showed a preference to cooperate; chimpanzees did not," Haun pointed out.
The children cooperated more than 78 percent of the time compared to about 58 percent for the chimpanzees.
These statistics show that the children actively chose to work together, while chimps appeared to choose between their two options randomly.
"Our findings suggest that behavioural differences between humans and other species might be rooted in apparently small motivational differences," added Haun.