Chimps vs. Humans: Successful Societies

Chimps vs. Humans: Successful Societies

Video. How can humans and chimpanzees use their smarts to improve their societies?


5 - 12


Biology, Ecology, Conservation

NG Live

This video was filmed on January 8th, 2012 as part of the National Geographic Live! lecture series at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.


Nobel Laureate Roger Myerson and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Jill Pruetz discuss insights into how humans and chimps share information, resolve conflicts, and build social groups. Pruetz's study of chimpanzees was the first to report that chimps, our closest animal relatives, seek shelter in caves for environmental reasons. Myerson was recognized in 2007 alongside Leonid Hurwicz and Eric Maskin for his contributions to mechanism design theory.

Leading the discussion is Boyd Matson, host of National Geographic Weekend.


  • Boyd Matson: program introduction (start-2:20 min.)

  • Roger Myerson: introduction to game theory and decision-making (2:21-4:52 min.)

  • Jill Pruetz: introduction to chimpanzee society and behavior (4:53-7:16 min.)

  • Social cooperation among chimpanzees (7:17-9:38 min.)

  • Differences in "ownership" between humans and chimpanzees (9:39-13:25 min.)

  • The role monogamy has played in successful societies (13:26-14:55 min.)

  • Do chimpanzees feel a sense of debt or obligation to one another? (14:56-16:11 min.)

  • Generational turnover: how culture evolves in primate society (16:12-18:14 min.)

  • Chimpanzees and personal comfort (18:15-18:43 min.)

  • Similar chimpanzee behaviors have very different meanings in different chimpanzee societies (18:44-19:35 min.)

  • Comparing decision-making in humans and chimpanzees: how to build better societies (19:36-23:24 min.)


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Page Producers
Nina Page, National Geographic Society
Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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