Chimpanzees often share and share alike when cooperating in pairs, suggesting that these apes come close to a human sense of fairness, a controversial new study finds.

Like people, chimps tend to fork over half of a valuable windfall to a comrade in situations where the recipient can choose to accept the deal or turn it down and leave both players with nothing, say psychologist Darby Proctor of Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Lawrenceville, Ga., and her colleagues. And just as people do, chimps turn stingy when supplied with goodies that they can share however they like, the researchers report online January 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Humans and chimpanzees show similar preferences in dividing rewards, suggesting a long evolutionary history to the human sense of fairness,” Proctor says.

But psychologist Josep Call of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, considers the new results “far from convincing.” In Proctor’s experiments, pairs of chimps interacted little with each other and showed no signs of understanding that some offers were unfair and could be rejected, Call says.

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