Social Contact Following Severe Aggression in Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta): A New Test of the Consolation Hypothesis

Author: Matheson, M.D.

Source: International Journal of Primatology, Volume 20, Number 6, December 1999 , pp. 961-975(15)

Publisher: Springer

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Previous studies on macaque species revealed no evidence of consolation: affiliative contact between the loser of an aggressive interaction and a third party. However, typically, the researchers used short observation periods and latency to make first affiliative contact as a dependent measure. Based on social stress buffering literature, I predicted that by employing longer observation periods and percentage of time in affiliative contact as a dependent measure, I would be more likely to detect increases in affiliative contact following aggression. I observed adult female rhesus macaques for 1 hr after they received severe aggression and for 1 hr after some affiliative contact, and measured time spent in affiliative contact using instantaneous recording at 30-sec intervals. Contrary to prediction, victims of attack did not spend a greater percentage of time in affiliative contact postaggression as compared to postaffiliation. Subjects were also less likely to initiate contact with other individuals and were more likely to have contact with individuals that were dominant to their aggressor, following aggression. These results provide converging evidence that affiliative contact is not increased following aggression in macaques. I discuss the failure to bear out the predictions based on the social stress buffering literature in terms of rhesus social dynamics, the nature of aggression as a stressor, and possible mechanisms for the social stress buffering effect.

Keywords: affiliative behavior; aggression; consolation; social behavior; social stress buffering

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychology Department, University of Georgia, and Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.

Publication date: December 1, 1999

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