Bonobos respond prosocially toward members of other groups
Modern humans live in an “exploded” network with unusually large circles of trust that form due to prosociality toward unfamiliar people (i.e. xenophilia). In a set of experiments we demonstrate that semi-free ranging bonobos (Pan paniscus) – both juveniles and young adults – also show spontaneous responses consistent with xenophilia. Bonobos voluntarily aided an unfamiliar, non-group member in obtaining food even when he/she did not make overt requests for help. Bonobos also showed evidence for involuntary, contagious yawning in response to videos of yawning conspecifics who were complete strangers. These experiments reveal that xenophilia in bonobos can be unselfish, proactive and automatic. They support the first impression hypothesis that suggests xenophilia can evolve through individual selection in social species whenever the benefits of building new bonds outweigh the costs. Xenophilia likely evolved in bonobos as the risk of intergroup aggression dissipated and the benefits of bonding between immigrating members increased. Our findings also mean the human potential for xenophilia is either evolutionarily shared or convergent with bonobos and not unique to our species as previously proposed.