Playing or dancing with someone, playing in the same team, and even gossiping every now and then, are activities that promote emotional alignment, promoting the establishment of social bonds, at least for humans. Does something similar happen between the animals? For some researchers the ability to create a so-called social bonding by sharing particular moments would be exclusive to our species, but a study conducted by researchers at Duke University (North Carolina, USA) suggests instead that something similar happens in the animal kingdom as well.

Small children laugh like chimpanzees

Experiments carried out at the Wolfgang Kohler primate research center of the Leipzig zoo and at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary (NICS, Uganda) show that even for some anthropomorphic monkeys, such as chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobo (Pan paniscus), share moments social supports the establishment of more intense relationships. In a first series of tests conducted at the zoo, a chimpanzee and a helper spent time together watching the same video; in the control test the screen was instead oriented so that the man could not watch the film, while the chimpanzee did. At the end the scientists measured the speed with which the animals approached the man with whom they had or not shared the experience of the film.

Man is eroding the cultural diversity of chimpanzees

A similar experiment, but without human presence, has also been repeated in the sanctuary of the chimpanzees in Uganda. Here pairs of monkeys have been exposed to the same video simultaneously, while other couples have watched the film from different screens, without directly sharing the experience. In all the cases studied the result was similar: those who shared the experience with a partner (human or animal) showed a tendency to get closer, or faster, to the partner than those who enjoyed the show alone. The ability to create bonds on the basis of shared social experiences would therefore not be a human exclusive, but could have deeper evolutionary roots than previously thought.