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Connecting ethology to the social sciences: A primatological analysis of human bystander behavior during conflicts


Primatology provided extensive evidence of non-human primate behavior during conflicts claiming a behavioral universality shared with human primates. However, little is known about human behavior during conflicts because direct and undisturbed naturalistic observations of humans are rare. Recently, social scientists started to fill this gap by observing adult human behavior in real-life conflicts using Closed Circuits Television (CCTV). These systematic and unobtrusive observations of adult humans provided evidence for behavioral continuity between human and non-human primates during conflicts but currently lack integration with theories and methodologies from ethology. This project aims to connect ethology to the social sciences by testing theories of bystander conflict behavior from primatology on CCTV camera observations of human adults in 500 conflicts. It integrates methodological standards for observational studies from ethology in the social sciences, and provides motivational explanations of bystander actions in conflicts for the benefits of observational studies in both fields. The integrative methodology adds to both primatology, by providing understanding of human behavioral continuity in the primate order, and to sociology, by providing an evolutionary perspective on human behavior in the context of bystander conflict management. In turn, by conducting the project, I will acquire, as primatologist, an inclusive theoretical understanding of bystander interventions in primates, including the human species that will launch me into an interdisciplinary career.

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-CAR - CAR – Career Restart panel


Winthontlaan 2
3526 KV Utrecht
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 263 358,72