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Self-handicapping during play fighting in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)

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Play may serve several potential functions, including learning to overcome unexpected circumstances. Self-handicapping, during which individuals do not utilize their full strength, is proposed to provide training for the unexpected. If self-handicapping occurs, then play fight intensity should decrease as partner age discrepancy increases. By playing with reduced intensity, the older partner self-handicaps, exposing itself to situations that it does not fully control. Self-handicapping was investigated in a captive group of brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) by recording the duration and sequence of play during focal samples. All instances of play fighting were scored from video for intensity. As the age difference between the partners increased, the intensity of play bouts decreased. Since partners with larger age disparities played less intensely, results provided quantitative evidence for self-handicapping, although additional factors may affect play intensity. We suggest that self-handicapping encourages play and provides support for the training for the unexpected hypothesis.

Affiliations: 1: aAnimal Behavior Program, Bucknell University, 1 Dent Drive, Lewisburg, PA 17837, USA ; 2: bDepartment of Psychology, Bucknell University, 1 Dent Drive, Lewisburg, PA 17837, USA

*Corresponding author’s e-mail address:

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