We humans usually prefer associating ourselves with those who are willing to help others. Although it sounds odd, this isn’t a behavior we share with our ape relatives. Researchers revealed that bonobos, which are our closest relatives, choose the bullies’ side.
Humans prefer helpers due to their cooperative nature
Researchers came up with the idea of this study on bonobos after performing a series of similar analyses on humans. An older research looked at babies aged between six and nine months old. Even if they weren’t able to communicate, they could still distinguish between good and bad people. When they had to choose between the two, they always preferred the helpers.
This made researchers assume that this was a feature typical for humans. If these babies were more likely to choose the helpers at such an early age, they assumed the feature must have been associated with the cooperative nature of humans. Also, they found it essential for human interaction. However, they knew the only way to test it was to see if apes had it as well.
Bonobos prefer bullies because they exhibit dominant traits
Therefore, they decided to test it on several bonobos at the Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They showed the apes a series of cartoons which showed either shapes posing as either helpers and bullies, each shape being different. Then, they were offered apple slices placed between each of the shapes. This way, they observed the bonobos preferred the bullies over the helpers.
This came up as surprising, since bonobos are viewed as extremely cooperative and peaceful creatures. However, they still live in a society based on dominance, where they have to fight to achieve something. Therefore, they probably chose the bullies since they embodied the dominating individuals.