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Working dogs cooperate among one another by generalised reciprocity.


ABSTRACT: Cooperation by generalised reciprocity implies that individuals apply the decision rule "help anyone if helped by someone". This mechanism has been shown to generate evolutionarily stable levels of cooperation, but as yet it is unclear how widely this cooperation mechanism is applied among animals. Dogs (Canis familiaris) are highly social animals with considerable cognitive potential and the ability to differentiate between individual social partners. But although dogs can solve complex problems, they may use simple rules for behavioural decisions. Here we show that dogs trained in an instrumental cooperative task to provide food to a social partner help conspecifics more often after receiving help from a dog before. Remarkably, in so doing they show no distinction between partners that had helped them before and completely unfamiliar conspecifics. Apparently, dogs use the simple decision rule characterizing generalised reciprocity, although they are probably capable of using the more complex decision rule of direct reciprocity: "help someone who has helped you". However, generalized reciprocity involves lower information processing costs and is therefore a cheaper cooperation strategy. Our results imply that generalised reciprocity might be applied more commonly than direct reciprocity also in other mutually cooperating animals.

SUBMITTER: Gfrerer N 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC5338352 | BioStudies | 2017-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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