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Reconciliation is the occurrence of friendly behaviour between opponents shortly after an aggressive conflict. In primate groups, reconciliation reduces aggression and post-conflict arousal. Aggression within a group can also increase arousal of bystanders (e.g. increase bystanders’ rates of self-directed behaviour). Since reconciliation reduces aggression between opponents, we tested whether it also reduces self-directed behaviour in bystanders. Following aggression in a captive group of hamadryas baboons, one observer conducted a focal sample on one of the combatants to document reconciliation and a second observer simultaneously conducted a focal sample on a randomly selected bystander. Matched control observations were then collected on the same individuals in a nonaggressive context to obtain baseline levels of behaviour. The self-directed behaviour of bystanders was elevated after witnessing a fight compared to baseline levels. If combatants reconciled aggression, bystander rates of self-directed behaviour significantly decreased. If combatants did not reconcile aggression, bystander rates of self-directed behaviour remained at elevated levels, significantly higher than after reconciliation. If combatants affiliated with partners other than their original opponent, bystander rates of self-directed behaviour did not decrease. The rate of bystander self-directed behaviour after a combatant affiliated with its opponent was significantly lower than the rate after a combatant affiliated with other animals. Witnessing aggression increased arousal in bystanders, and reconciliation between the combatants was accompanied by reduced bystander arousal. The reduction was specific to contexts in which former opponents interacted. We suggest that bystanders recognized the functional significance of this conflict resolution mechanism when it occurred in their group.


Animal Behaviour





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