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Been thinkin' It's about forgiveness review of Peacemaking among primates by Frans de Waal. Cambridge Massachusetts Harvard University Press 1989 XI + 294 pp 1 fig 99 photos $29

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American Journal of Primatology 26:14%146 (1992)
Been Thinkin’ It’sAbout Forgiveness
Review of Peacemaking Among Primates, by Frans de Waal. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1989, XI + 294 pp, 1 fig, 99 photos, $29.95.
This is Frans de Waal’s second book intended for the nonspecialist. Its predecessor, Chimpanzee Politics [19821, was a riveting account of the complexities,
subtleties, and richness of chimpanzee life a t the Arnhem colony in Holland. In
Peacemaking, de Waal again gives us insights into the world of the chimpanzee and
extends his observations to rhesus and stump-tailed macaques, to bonobos, and to
humans. This time his goal is to describe the “natural mechanisms of conflict
resolution” among these five species. An ethological perspective and a wealth of
detailed evidence are used to make a convincing case that these primates seek
reconciliation after conflict.
Although the book relies heavily on descriptions and anecdotes, de Waal has
produced a significant body of empirical research to support his interpretations.
When it does not detract from the qualitative nature of this book, the reader is also
provided with some of these data. A substantial bibliography and a n index give the
reader a n entre into the professional literature. The book has six chapters, one
each on the five species mentioned above and a n introductory chapter entitled
“False Dichotomies.’’
In this first chapter de Waal discusses the critical importance of assessing
primate behavior from many perspectives. If we label agression as “bad” or maladaptive, then how might we characterize its functioning in primate social systems? Its less well-studied counterpart, reconciliation or peacemaking, may also be
misconstrued. If we are wed to a genetic interpretation of the individual’s social
behavior, do we not lose sight of proximate causation as well as the reality of the
social group? If we insist that only field studies will give us the “true” picture of
primate social behavior, then we risk losing the quantitative and qualitative richness that captive studies provide. “It is the judicious combination of different
approaches that is the future of primatology” (p. 32).
In chapter two we are reacquainted with the chimpanzees who were so vividly
portrayed in Chimpanzee Politics. A number of provocative sex differences are
presented and it is also suggested that these patterns are species typical. For
example, ‘‘. . . reconciliation occurs after 47 percent of conflicts among adult males,
but only after 18 percent of those among adult females . . .” (p. 48). But, “among
males most cooperation seems of a transactional nature . . .” while females “. . .
base their cooperation on kinship and personal preferences” (p. 49). Additionally,
female preference in conflict intervention and coalition partners is stable, while
adult male intervention and coalition partners vary over time. Whether or not
these patterns have parallels among humans is a n issue that de Waal cautiously
appraises. He acknowledges that we are sorely lacking in cross-cultural data and
concludes: “The most interesting differences between the sexes is . . . not in the
amount of competition but in the form it takes and the effect it has on relationships” (p. 57).
0 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
144 I Marchant
This chimpanzee chapter, and all succeeding ones, contain many examples of
what is often called Machiavellian intelligence [cf. Byrne & Whiten, 19881. More
and more we recognize the role that social manipulation, strategic planning, and
tactical decisions must have played in the evolution of primate intelligence [Curtin, 19811. Indeed, in order for reconciliation to occur in the various forms described
in Peacemaking, it is a prerequisite that these primates have long-term relationships, social memories, individual recognition, and some sort of self-consciousness.
We learn what happens when the male chimpanzee hierarchy is unstable and
reconciliation fails as a mechanism to maintain peace. We witness the deterioration of social relationships among the adult males which results in a horrible death
of the once alpha male Luit.
In the rhesus and stump-tailed monkey chapters, de Waal gives the nonspecialist one of the best introductions that I have read to the variability that exists
between two species in the same genus. For example, rhesus show an average of
eighteen aggressive acts per ten hours per individual; this contrast with stumptails whose average is thirty-eight. But, the escalation rate to more intense aggression-fierce biting for example-is eighteen times lower than that of rhesus
monkeys. The contrasts in dominance styles, grooming patterns, rigidity of matrilines, and many other aspects of macaque social systems are made clear. The
author also does an admirable job of portraying the remarkable individual differences within species. I was fascinated by the story of Tip, a middle-ranking rhesus
female, and her efforts at “climbing the social ladder.” (Meredith Small [1990]
reports a similar case history for a Barbary macaque female.) For some of us
specialists it is this individualistic nature of nonhuman primates that makes this
work so fascinating.
In these monkey chapters considerable space is devoted to research design and
methodology. But this does not weigh down the text; technical information is
nicely woven into accounts of particular matrilines, individuals within matrilines,
and the dynamics of ma1e:male and fema1e:male relationships. We also learn much
about the author’s theoretical orientation, although he is straightforward on these
issues from the outset. He relies heavily on cognitive ethology and clearly acknowledges the influences of other European ethologists on his thinking. These include
Jan van Hoof and Hans Kummer. de Waal is particularly aware of his own use of
Kummer’s analysis of tripartite relationships [Kummer, 19681. The very nature of
reconciliation research requires this perspective. Indeed, one of the most pleasing
aspects of this book is the author’s consistent crediting of those people with whom
he had studied, those he worked with as colleagues, and the students and assistants who contributed to the work that is presented. de Waal’s generosity is refreshing, given the number of popular accounts of primate behavior that leave the
reader with the impression that the undertaking has been a one-woman or oneman show.
Although de Waal does not play favorites in considering the five species, I
think he is especially keen on bonobos. Depending on which side of the Pan fence
one sits, it is revealing to see how paniscus is compared with troglodytes--“ . . . a
Concorde with a Boeing 747, an orchid with a dahlia, a cheetah with a lion, or
urban sophisticate with country casual” (p. 175). de Waal chooses to use bonobo as
the common name for species paniscus; he argues that “pygmy chimpanzee” misleads the uninformed about the adult size and general appearance of these individuals. As in earlier chapters, individuals’ personalities and unique histories are
wonderfully conveyed. This was most enlightening for me, since two of the individuals portrayed in detail now reside a t the Cincinnati Zoo, where my students
have the rare privilege of studying bonobos.
Been Thinkin’ It’s About Forgiveness / 145
de Waal takes up the phylogeny of bonobos before discussing this species’
particular form of conflict resolution. The genetic and behavioral affinities of genus Pan with genus Homo are supported through reference to Sibley and Alquist
(19843. A stronger case could have been made by examining the work of others; for
instance, Sarich and Cronin U9761 produced an even more recent divergence date
for the two genera.
There is little direct mention of primate conservation in this volume; however,
respect for and fascination with primates is clear throughout. For bonobos the
author makes the extra effort of noting the dangers of habitat loss, human hunting, and illegal export.
Bonobo anatomy and behavior have previously been incorporated into models
of human evolution [Zihlman et al., 19781. de Waal’s descriptions of how conflict
resolution is embedded in bonobo sexual behavior is ripe for incorporation into
scenarios of hominid evolution. While troglodytes embrace and kiss during reconciliation, bonobos copulate (face to face and dorso-ventral); massage the other’s
genitals; and females engage in a unique pattern of behavior known as GG-rubbing, genito-genital rubbing. For two females “video analysis revealed that they
stimulated each other with exactly the same rhythm of movement as that of a
thrusting male: 2.2 moves per second (p. 204).
The final chapter on humans is the most problematic, which should come as no
surprise. Throughout the preceding chapters human behavior is often compared
and contrasted with the nonhuman species under consideration. But in the final
chapter de Waal wants to further convince his audience of a common biological
predisposition that we share with these species-“ . . . for humans, making peace
is as natural as making war” (p. 7). The forms may vary but the goal is the same.
He does not argue for biological determinism, far from it-“Social behavior is in all
species a blend of inborn tendencies, experience, and intelligent decision making”
(p. 230). While acknowledging the scarcity of truly comparable evidence, de Waal
details what is available from child ethology, international politics, and the anthropological literature.
It was noted earlier that this book is directed a t the general reader who is
interested in primate behavior. However, I believe that primatologists should also
own this book. It is, unfortunately, all too typical for us to be species-centric. de
Waal is in the fortunate position of making cross-species comparison while also
having an admirable understanding of the uniqueness of each species he studies.
Moreover, he reminds us of the many levels of explanation that can usefully describe primate behavior; one theoretical perspective will not suffice if we want to
do excellent research. Peacemaking Among Primates will probably be as widely
read as Chimpanzee Politics. It has the potential of significantly influencing people’s understanding of our research much more than most of the technical literature to which we all earnestly contribute. We need to know how primatology is
presented to the nonspecialist, and what findings are offered for the interpretation
of our own species’ behavior. Although I may argue with some specific views
contained in de Waal’s thoughts on human behavior and his somewhat selective
coverage of evolutionary models, I think that we are very well served by this effort.
And the photos are superb.
Linda F. Marchant
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Miami University
Oxford, Ohio
146 I Marchant
HUMANS. Oxford, Oxford University
Press, 1988.
Curtin, R.A. Strategy and tactics in male
gray langur competition. JOURNAL OF
HUMAN EVOLUTION 10:245-253,1981.
HAMADRYAS BABOONS. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1968.
Sarich, V.M.; Cronin, J.E. Molecular systematics of the primates. Pp. 141-170 in MOLECULAR ANTHROPOLOGY. M. Good-
man. R.E. Tashian. eds. New York. Plenum
Press, 1976.
Sibley, C.; Ahlquist, J. The phylogeny of the
hominoid Drimates. as indicated bv DNADNA hybAdization. JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR EVOLUTION 20:2-15,1984.
Small, M.F. Social climber: Independent rise
in rank by a female Barbary macaque. FOLIA PRIMATOLOGICAL 55:85-91,1990.
de Waal, F. CHIMPANZEE POLITICS. London, Jonathan Cape, 1982.
Zihlman, A.L., et al., Pygmy chimpanzee as
a possible proto-type for the common ancestor of humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas.
NATURE 88:744-746,1978.
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