Does inequity aversion depend on a frustration effect? A test with capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella).
Brosnan and de Waal (Nature 425:297-299, 2003) reported that if a witness monkey saw a model monkey receive a high-value food, the witness was more inclined to reject a previously acceptable, but low-value food. Later work demonstrated that this alleged inequity aversion might be due to frustration induced by switching subjects from their role as models receiving a high-value food to the role of witnesses receiving a low-value food. In the present study, pairs of female capuchins exchanged a token for either a high- or a low-value food without switching their model-witness roles. Witnesses could exchange a token for a low-value food after an adjacent model had exchanged a token for the same food (Equity Condition) or for a high-value food (Inequity Condition). Failure- and latency-to-exchange measures showed that witnesses were unaffected by the food type offered to models (no inequity aversion). Moreover, models were unaffected by their history of food type offered (no frustration). These results join earlier work suggesting that alleged inequity effects depend on frustration-induction procedures. Furthermore, inequity effects sometimes fail to emerge because frustration induction in nonhuman primates is labile.