Amphibians by Ted O'Hare

By Ted O'Hare

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As a result, events in chimpanzee society span relatively long time intervals. It requires some training to get the overview, but once this has been achieved the connections become crystal clear. Let us follow an individual who has been involved in an aggressive encounter-which usually comprises lots of barking and little biting. Chimpanzees are among the noisiest animals in the world, making an indescribable din when chasing one another. Their fights rarely escalate to the point of damaging aggression, however.

My earlier book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982), provides many details on the popularity factor in leadership campaigns, the tactic of isolating rivals from their rank and file, and the role of females in male power takeovers. If presidential candidates take a sudden interest in women, listen to their problems, and hug their children, there are parallels in chimpanzee males who groom females and play gently with infants, especially during periods of status struggle. Let me give a quick summary of power relationships, emphasizing sex differences.

In this case, too, attraction is a prerequisite. Ridicule and hostility are unlikely to have any bonding effect on newcomers who have no wish to join the club. It is only in combination with desire that harsh treatment can serve both to test the new members and to strengthen their attraction and loyalty. The fact that painful initiation rituals are known from a great variety of human cultures makes it unlikely that the psychological mechanisms involved in this peculiar bonding process are an independent invention of each society.

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