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Grooming coercion and the post-conflict trading of social services in wild Barbary macaques

Public Library of Science
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  • C800 Psychology
  • C300 Zoology
  • C890 Psychology Not Elsewhere Classified


In animal and human societies, social services such as protection from predators are often exchanged between group members. The tactics that individuals display to obtain a service depend on its value and on differences between individuals in their capacity to aggressively obtain it. Here we analysed the exchange of valuable social services (i.e. grooming and relationship repair) in the aftermath of a conflict, in wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). The relationship repair function of post-conflict affiliation (i.e. reconciliation) was apparent in the victim but not in the aggressor. Conversely, we found evidence for grooming coercion by the aggressor; when the victim failed to give grooming soon after a conflict they received renewed aggression from the aggressor. We argue that post-conflict affiliation between former opponents can be better described as a trading of social services rather than coercion alone, as both animals obtain some benefits (i.e. grooming for the aggressor and relationship repair for the victim). Our study is the first to test the importance of social coercion in the aftermath of a conflict. Differences in competitive abilities can affect the exchange of services and the occurrence of social coercion in animal societies. This may also help explain the variance between populations and species in their social behaviour and conflict management strategies.

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