Female chimps more hostile with each other

University research found more aggression and competition among females.

by Rebecca Harrington

Humans may be more like monkeys than they realize.

New research from the University of Minnesota published online last month in the American Journal of Primatology shows female chimpanzees gesture more aggressively with each other than they do with males.

Nicole Scott, doctoral candidate at the Brain Sciences Center and author of the research, said she wanted to compare humans with their closest living relative, the chimpanzee.

She studied 30 chimps ages 2 to 40 years at Chester Zoo in England. Scott said she videotaped the chimps and then reviewed the tapes to categorize the gestures.

Some examples of aggressive gestures, she said, were slapping the ground, raising an arm up and tapping for attention.

Scott said the most striking finding was that females changed their behavior based on gender while males didn’t.

“Females get upset with each other and then that’s it,” she said, “They act aggressively and there’s no apology; there’s no reassurance. It’s just, ‘I’m done with you.’”

Accounting sophomore Baza Haile-Selassie said she sees a parallel between the two species’ gesturing because women tend to fight less and talk more, which has more gesturing.

John Stanoch, linguistics sophomore, said he didn’t think the research directly applied to humans because men are typically more competitive with one another than women are.

“Men are always trying to sort of one-up each other and make a competition out of things,” he said, “whereas women are more focused on making connections.”

But female chimpanzees are naturally more competitive with one another.

Scott said female chimps leave their family’s troop and join a new one when they are old enough to reproduce.

The females have competition “built in” since a new female could take food, males, resting spots and attention from existing females, Scott said.

“They don’t necessarily need to be friends,” she said, “because there’s that competition.”

Scott said she was hesitant to directly apply the research to humans, but she’s seen the same competitive behaviors in her experience, too.

Since many women still “rely more on men” for promotions and job advancement, Scott said, it’s more beneficial for women to compete with each other — but that should change.

“We need to be less like chimpanzees and learn to help each other out.”