An important debate centres around the nature of prosociality in nonhuman primates. Chimpanzees help other individuals in some experimental settings, yet they do not readily share food. One solution to this paradox is that they are motivated to help others provided there are no competing interests. However, benefits to recipients could arise as by-products of testing. Here we report two studies that separate by-product from intended helping in chimpanzees using a GO/NO-GO paradigm. Actors in one group could help a recipient by releasing a food box, but the same action for another group prevented a recipient from being able to get food. We find no evidence for helping-chimpanzees engaged in the test regardless of the effects on their partners. Illusory prosocial behaviour could arise as a by-product of task design.