Getting Over It

Aggressive conflict is something that we, and most other species on the planet, know something about. Some much more than others of course, and such conflict usually entails risks of injury and costs in terms of energy at the very least. Mammals and primates in particular show signs of post conflict distress and in groups where valuable cooperative relationships exist, the costs of the conflict can be high.

We all know the solution don’t we? We try to teach it to our children. Reconciliation is the next best thing to no aggressive conflict to begin with. Ignoring the human primate species as a possible outlier, most primates will get over it and rebuild relationships if there was an existing value to those relationships.

Birds on the other hand don’t just get over it. They can hold grudges and pass that grudge along to their friends, as is the case with crows for example. It is interesting to read the new paper by Fraser and Bugnyar (1) of U of Vienna on a study with a group of adolescent ravens.

Before they get round to serious dating, ravens hang around in gangs and the gang culture is strong. Rules and relationships in gangs are important. Of course, with any gang of young hooligans, squabbles and fights will break out from time to time. But then it is important not to lose the valuable advantages of being in the gang, so reconciliation will follow and the relationships repaired if they are judged to be of sufficient value. Ravens can be more pragmatic than people at times. Perhaps we should sit close to those we’ve been squabbling with and do a bit of cooperative preening now and again.


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