Strength Determines Coalitional Strategies in Humans

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Strength Determines Coalitional Strategies in Humans

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Title: Strength Determines Coalitional Strategies in Humans
Author: Benenson, Joyce Frances; Markovits, Henry; Emery Thompson, Melissa; Wrangham, Richard W.

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Citation: Benenson, Joyce F., Henry Markovits, Melissa Emery Thompson, and Richard W. Wrangham. 2009. Strength determines coalitional strategies in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276(1667): 2589-2595.
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Abstract: Coalitions enhance survival and reproductive success in many social species, yet they generate contradictory impulses. Whereas a coalition increases the probability of successfully obtaining rewards for its members, it typically requires a division of rewards among members, thereby diminishing individual benefits. Non-human primate data indicate that coalition formation is more likely when an individual's probability of success is low when competing alone. No comparable studies exist for humans. Here we show using a computerized competitive game that humans exhibit a systematic, intuitive strategy for coalition formation based on their own and others' levels of perceived strength, a pattern that resembles coalition formation in chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes. Despite equal expected pay-offs for all strategies, subjects were more likely to form coalitions as their own level of perceived strength waned. Those chosen as coalition partners tended to be stronger individuals or arbitrarily designated ‘friends’. Results suggest a heuristic for human coalitionary decisions that rests on the perception of relative power rather than on the assessment of pay-offs.
Published Version: doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.0314
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at
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