Peter G. Judge
Research on nonhuman primate behavior that occurs following aggression has flourished while relatively little attention has been directed toward behavioral mechanisms that may prevent fights from occurring. Nevertheless, many of the responses that are thought to resolve conflicts following aggression (e.g., allogrooming, huddling, touching, submissive displays, and appeasement gestures) occur routinely throughout the day. If these responses limit aggression, decrease the likelihood of further escalation, reduce social tension, and restore disrupted relationships after fights (de Waal, Chapter 2), might the same responses serve similar functions outside overtly aggressive contexts? For example, if a conflict-provoking situation arises between two animals and one grooms the other, then aggression may be less likely than when no affiliative behavior is exchanged.
One method for evaluating such conflict management is to observe primate groups in contexts known to increase social tension and the potential for aggression. If submission, tension-regulating behavior, and friendly responses increase in such competitive situations, then animals may be attempting to reduce escalation of conflict. Two such contexts have been investigated in primate groups: scheduled feeding and crowding. Scheduled feeding of provisioned groups produces a tense situation in anticipation of competition for food and does elicit attempts to reduce conflict beforehand (Koyama, Box 7.1). Crowding produces another situation in which increased competition for space produces a context in which aggression may be reduced through behavioral mechanisms. With respect to crowding, two main questions arise: Does crowding increase aggression,