The first kiss

Sunday 12 October 2003

The importance of making up after a fight will be examined in detail at a special lecture at the University of St Andrews today (Monday 13th October, 2003)

Professor Frans de Waal, an eminent scholar of primate research at Emory University, will give a public lecture entitled ‘The First Kiss – conflict, reconciliation and negotiation in animals’.

Professor de Waal’s discovery of reconciliation in primates has been confirmed in many different species and has fundamently altered the way psychologists understand aggression in nature.

In a comprehensively illustrated talk, he will examine the use of aggression in animals as a negotiation tool and the importance of reconciliation in repairing valuable social relationships.

Professor de Waal explained: “Reconciliation – defined as a friendly reunion between two individuals following conflict – has been confirmed in many different primate species, in both captivity and the field, both experimentally and observationally. Chimpanzees, for instance, kiss and embrace after fights. Reconciliation has also been demonstrated in non-primates, suggesting that the phenomenon is widespread indeed.

“There is good evidence that reconciliation truly serves what its name suggests, i.e. the repair of social relationships. The dominant idea (known as the Valuable Relationship Hypothesis) is that reconciliation will occur whenever parties stand much to lose if their relationship deteriorates. This applies especially to cooperative partnerships and kinship relations.”

In the decades following World War II, scientists became fascinated with aggression in humans and animals. The perspective of most comparative studies was that aggression is a natural phenomenon, important to animals’ competitive success, only to be alleviated by environmental changes such as crowd reduction.

However, Professor de Waal will discuss how aggression can be used as a negotiation tool and how parties can make their respective claims and intentions clear without undermining the relationship.

“These mechanisms now seem so logical that the absence of reconciliation in a social species is considered puzzling,” he said.

Professor de Waal is C. H. Candler Professor of Psychology and Director of Living Links at the Yerkes Primate Center, Emory University. He received the Los Angeles Times Book Award for ‘Peacemaking among Primates’ a popularized account of fifteen years of research on conflict resolution in nonhuman primates. His current interests include food- sharing, social reciprocity, and conflict-resolution in primates as well as the origins of morality and justice in human society.

The Irvine Lecture, named after former University Principal, Professor James Colquhon Irvine, is an annual lecture given by an eminent scholar on a subject of general interest.

‘The First Kiss – conflict, reconciliation and negotiation in animals’ by Professor Frans B.M. de Waal is on Monday 13th October, 2003 at 5.15pm in School III, St Salvator’s Qaudrangle, St Andrews. Members of the public are welcome.





Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected] Ref: The First Kiss pr 081003 View the latest University news at

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