Humans are not the only species that feel a sense of companionship when watching a movie with their friends or family. According to research done by the department of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in the United States, chimpanzees have the capacity to experience the same bonding sensation that humans feel from watching television or a movie together.
Chimpanzees were paired together and observed as they viewed videos, and psychologists discovered that the primates expressed an increase of closeness between them in a manner that was previously considered unique to humans alone.
According to the researchers, this suggests “deep evolutionary roots” of the enhanced emotional affect of watching something with another being. It also makes you wonder what we lose when we have less shared experiences, such as when families are separately hooked into social media instead of bonding together over an activity, game, or movie.
The study saw chimpanzees and bonobo monkeys placed in front of a screen displaying a video. Eye-tracking software was used to ensure the primates were paying attention to the film, while fruit drinks were used to keep them from moving around too much. The report co-author, Wouter Wolf, said that the video used was chosen based on prior research that suggested what apes prefer to watch – videos of other apes. Using data from 45 primates – mainly chimpanzees and a few bonobos – the researchers assessed the behavioural changes after they viewed a video of a chimpanzee family playing with a younger chimpanzee. Watching the video together increased their inclination to bond, with acts such as sticking closer together, touching, and interacting with each other.
Wolf said that these results have altered the notion that these shared social experiences from viewing an activity was unique to humans. The research indicates that this sensation of closeness felt from shared experience is “present in both humans and great apes and thus has deeper evolutionary roots than previously suspected”.
“If you go to the movies together, you’re sitting side by side, it’s a really social phenomenon,” says Wolf. “[But] you get really annoyed if the other person starts to play with their phone. It’s annoying because you’re no longer watching together”.
In relation to the sense of connection that social media offers, humans are “addicted to sharing,” says Wolf. “But do you get the deeper experience from social media? The quality of such a social network online is different”.