World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal
Frans de Waal
Born (1948-10-29) October 29, 1948
's-Hertogenbosch, North Brabant, Netherlands
Occupation Primatologist, Ethologist
Years active 1975–present

Franciscus Bernardus Maria "Frans" de Waal, PhD (born 29 October 1948) is a Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center[1] and author of numerous books including Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape. His research centers on primate social behavior, including conflict resolution, cooperation, inequity aversion, and food-sharing. He is a Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Quotes 3
    • Awards 3.1
  • Selected bibliography 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life and education

De Waal was born in 's-Hertogenbosch. De Waal studied at the Dutch universities of Radboud University Nijmegen, University of Groningen, and Utrecht. In 1977, De Waal received his doctorate in biology from Utrecht University after training as a zoologist and ethologist with Professor Jan van Hooff, a well-known expert of emotional facial expressions in primates. His dissertation research concerned aggressive behavior and alliance formation in macaques.[2]


Atheism will need to be combined with something else, something more constructive than its opposition to religion, to be relevant to our lives. The only possibility is to embrace morality as natural to our species.

 — From, The Bonobo and the Atheist, (2013).

In 1975, De Waal began a six-year project on the world's largest captive colony of chimpanzees at the Arnhem Zoo. The study resulted in many scientific papers, and resulted in publication of his first book, Chimpanzee Politics, in 1982. This book offered the first description of primate behavior explicitly in terms of planned social strategies. De Waal was first to introduce the thinking of Machiavelli to primatology, leading to the label "Machiavellian Intelligence" that later became associated with it. In his writings, De Waal has never shied away from attributing emotions and intentions to his primates, and as such his work inspired the field of primate cognition that, three decades later, flourishes around themes of cooperation, altruism, and fairness.

His early work also drew attention to deception and conflict resolution, nowadays two major areas of research. Initially, all of this was highly controversial. Thus, the label of "reconciliation", which De Waal introduced for reunions after fights, was questioned at first, but is now fully accepted with respect to animal behavior. Recently, De Waal's work has emphasized non-human animal empathy and even the origins of morality. His most widely cited paper,[3] written with his former student Stephanie Preston, concerns the evolutionary origin and neuroscience of empathy, not just in primates, but in mammals in general.

De Waal's name is also associated with Bonobo, the "make love – not war" primate that he has made popular. But even his Bonobo studies are secondary to the larger goal of understanding what binds primate societies together rather than how competition structures them.

Being both more systematically brutal than chimps and more empathic than bonobos, we are by far the most bipolar ape. Our societies are never completely peaceful, never completely competitive, never ruled by sheer selfishness, and never perfectly moral.

 — Frans de Waal[4]

Competition is not ignored in his work: the original focus of De Waal's research, before he was well known, was aggressive behavior and social dominance. Whereas his science focuses on the behavior of nonhuman primates (mostly chimpanzees, bonobos, macaques, and capuchin monkeys), his popular books have given De Waal worldwide visibility by relating the insights he has gained from monkey and ape behavior to human society. With his students, he has also worked on elephants, which are increasingly featured in his writings.

His research into the innate capacity for empathy among primates has led De Waal to the conclusion that non-human great apes and humans are simply different types of apes, and that empathic and cooperative tendencies are continuous between these species. His belief is illustrated in the following quote from The Age of Empathy: "We start out postulating sharp boundaries, such as between humans and apes, or between apes and monkeys, but are in fact dealing with sand castles that lose much of their structure when the sea of knowledge washes over them. They turn into hills, leveled ever more, until we are back to where evolutionary theory always leads us: a gently sloping beach."

This is quite opposite to the view of some economists and anthropologists, who postulate the differences between humans and other animals. However, recent work on prosocial tendencies in apes and monkeys supports De Waal's position. See, for example, the research of Felix Warneken,[5] a psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. In 2011, De Waal and his co-workers were the first to report that chimpanzees given a free choice between helping only themselves or helping themselves plus a partner, prefer the latter. In fact, De Waal does not believe these tendencies to be restricted to humans and apes, but views empathy and sympathy as universal mammalian characteristics, a view that over the past decade has gained support from studies on rodents and other mammals, such as dogs. He and his students have also extensively worked on fairness, leading to a video that went viral on inequity aversion among capuchin monkeys. The most recent work in this area was the first demonstration that given a chance to play the Ultimatum game, chimpanzees respond in the same way as children and human adults by preferring the equitable outcome.[6]

In 1981, De Waal moved to the United States for a position at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, and in 1991 took a position at Emory University, in Atlanta, GA. He is currently C.H. Candler professor in the Psychology Department at Emory and director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. He became an American citizen in 2008.

The possibility that empathy resides in parts of the brain so ancient that we share them with rats should give pause to anyone comparing politicians with those poor, underestimated creatures.

 —Frans de Waal[7]

His 2013 book The Bonobo and the Atheist examines human behavior through the eyes of a primatologist, and explores how much God and religion are needed for human morality. The main conclusion is that morality comes from within, and is part of human nature. The role of religion is secondary. De Waal also writes a column for Psychologie, a popular Dutch monthly magazine.[8]

Since September 1, 2013, De Waal is a Distinguished Professor (Universiteitshoogleraar) at the University of Utrecht. This is a part-time appointment—he remains in his position at Emory University, in Atlanta.[9]


"The enemy of science is not religion... . The true enemy is the substitution of thought, reflection, and curiosity with dogma." The Bonobo and the Atheist, 2013[10]

"To endow animals with human emotions has long been a scientific taboo. But if we do not, we risk missing something fundamental, about both animals and us."[11]

"I've argued that many of what philosophers call moral sentiments can be seen in other species. In chimpanzees and other animals, you see examples of sympathy, empathy, reciprocity, a willingness to follow social rules. Dogs are a good example of a species that have and obey social rules; that's why we like them so much, even though they're large carnivores."[12]


Selected bibliography


  • The Bonobo and the Atheist, 2013. ISBN 978-0393073775
  • The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society, 2009. ISBN 978-0-307-40776-4 (reviewed in American Scientist)
  • Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved, 2006. ISBN 0-691-12447-7
  • Our Inner Ape. New York: Riverhead Books, 2005. ISBN 1-57322-312-3
  • Animal Social Complexity: Intelligence, Culture, and Individualized Societies, Edited with Peter L. Tyack. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-674-00929-0.
  • My Family Album, Thirty Years of Primate Photography 2003.
  • Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us about Human Social Evolution, Harvard University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-674-00460-4.
  • The Ape and the Sushi Master, Cultural reflections by a primatologist. New York: Basic Books, 2001. ISBN 0-465-04175-2
  • Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes (25th Anniversary ed.). Baltimore, MD: JHU Press; 2007. ISBN 978-0-8018-8656-0.
  • Natural Conflict Resolution. 2000 (with Filippo Aureli)
  • Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997. ISBN 0-520-20535-9 (with Frans Lanting)
  • Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-674-35660-8
  • Chimpanzee Cultures, Edited with Richard Wrangham, W.C. McGrew, and Paul Heltne. Foreword by Jane Goodall. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-674-11662-3.
  • Peacemaking Among Primates. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-674-65920-1


  • 2015 "The New York Times"Opinion piece about the discovery of Homo naledi
  • 2013 "The Wall Street Journal"Opinion piece about animal intelligence in
  • 2010 "The New York Times"Opinion piece about God and morality in
  • 2010 "Towards a bottom-up perspective on animal and human cognition", Trends in Cognitive Sciences 201-207. May 2010
  • 2009, "Darwin's last laugh", Essay, Nature 460, 175 (9 July 2009)
  • 2008 "Putting the Altruism Back into Altruism: The Evolution of Empathy", Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 59: 279-300
  • 2007, "Bonobos, Left & Right" Skeptic, (8 August 2007).
  • 2006, "Self-recognition in an Asian elephant", PNAS, vol 103, no 45, 17053-17057
  • 2005, "The empathic ape", New Scientist, 08 October 2005
  • 2001, "Do Humans Alone 'Feel Your Pain'?" (, October 26, 2001)
  • 1999, "The End of Nature Versus Nurture", Scientific American, vol 281, no 6, p 94-99
  • 1995, "Bonobo Sex and Society The behavior of a close relative challenges assumptions about male supremacy in human evolution", Scientific American, vol 272, no 3, p 82-88

See also


  1. ^ Andrea Thompson (2007-08-09). "How did we go from ape to airplane? Scientists turn to chimpanzees to solve the mystery of our cultural roots". MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  2. ^ Living Links Bio Page Archived November 13, 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^
  4. ^ Frans de Waal (1997-07). "Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are". Science Shelf. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Frans de Waal (2001-10-26). "Do Humans Alone 'Feel Your Pain'?". The Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  8. ^ "Frans de Waal - Psychologie Magazine". Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Frans de Waal (1997-07). "Are We in Anthropodenial?". DISCOVER magazine, pp. 50–53. Retrieved 2011-07-30.
  12. ^ Natalie Angier (2001-01-14). "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  13. ^ "The 2012 Ig Nobel Prize Winners". Retrieved 2013-07-21. 
  14. ^ "Frans de Waal". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 

External links

  • Frans de Waal on Big Think about God and morality on YouTube.
  • Do animals have moralsFrans de Waal:
  • Frans de Waal's official FaceBook site
  • De Waal on The Colbert Report, in 2008
  • Interview with Frans de Waal about empathy on YouTube
  • Interview with De Waal on BigThink about morality
  • De Waal, Wrangham, and Pinker discuss warfare on YouTube
  • TED talk by De Waal on the origins of morality (Includes clips of experiments.)
  • Living Links Center, currently directed by Frans de Waal
  • - 'Frans B. M. de Waal, C. H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior', Emory University faculty homepage
  • 'Talking Primates with Dr. Frans de Waal' (August 25, 2005 Blog)
  • - 'The Bookshelf talks with Frans de Waal', American Scientist (2001)
  • - 'Frans de Waal, Comparative Primatologist' (includes mp3 audio clip; October 21, 2004)
  • - 'Natural Goodness', Paula Gordon
  • - 'Profile of Frans B. M. de Waal', Regina Nuzz, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
  • De Waal's editorial contribution to social psychology in Greater Good magazine
  • online reading group discussion of Frans de Waal's "Our Inner Ape"
  • book discussion of Frans de Waal's "Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved"
  • Video (with mp3 available) of discussion with De Waal about aspects of primate behavior on
  • "On Atheists and Bonobos - A conversation with Frans de Waal", Ideas Roadshow, 2013
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.