Donor payoffs and other-regarding preferences in cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus)

Jeffrey R. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Helping others at no cost to oneself is a simple way to demonstrate other-regarding preferences. Yet, primates exhibit mixed results for other-regarding preferences: chimpanzees and tamarins do not show these effects, whereas capuchin monkeys and marmosets preferentially give food to others. One factor of relevance to this no-cost food donation is the payoff to the donor. Though donors always receive the same payoffs regardless of their choice, previous work varies in whether they receive either a food reward or no food reward. Here, I tested cotton-top tamarins in a preferential giving task. Subjects could choose from two tools, one of which delivered food to a partner in an adjacent cage and the other of which delivered food to an empty cage. Thus, subjects could preferentially give or withhold food from a partner. I varied whether subjects received food payoffs, whether a partner was present or absent, and whether the partner was a non-cagemate or the subject's mate. Results showed that the subjects' overall motivation to pull either tool declined when they did not receive any food. Additionally, they did not preferentially donate or withhold food, regardless of their own payoff or their relationship with the partner. Thus, cotton-top tamarins do not take advantage of cost-free food giving, either when they might gain in the future (mates) or when they have no opportunity for future interactions (non-cagemates).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-670
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Altruism
  • Callitrichid
  • Cooperative breeding
  • Inequity
  • Payoff
  • Self-interest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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