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Bonobos

Until recently I thought bonobos were just chimps. But I found out that even though there are some similarities between the two, there are key differences. They both live in African rainforest, eat fruit, and live in troops. However, Bonobos are the “make love, not war� primates. The females form coalitions, there is less violence and they have sex 10 times as much as the chimps. What was more interesting was that these differences are due to the different location of the species. So sociologists might be right after all, interactions are context-specific and they could explain our behavior.

Sociologists such as George Simmel, have pointed out that social context creates roles (or social type), it creates certain forms of associations and the types of “selves� and it influence the ways in which the “selves� can interact. Like chimpanzees, bonobos eat fruit, but unlike the chimps they can get food easily on the forest floor, and there is no conflict between the bonobos over the amount of food one can get. Wrangham points outs that “one of the great thrusts of behavioral biology for the last three or four decades has been that if you change the conditions that an animal is in, then you change the kind of behavior that is elicited�. If we do change the location of a certain specie, would the specie change its behavior, and the way they interact, could it reduce conflict/violence or would it create a whole new problem?

Comments

Nice summary of Wrangham's argument. I especially like how you link it up with traditional sociological theory: this is a link many sociologists fail to see that I find fascinating.