Gambling chimps are sore losers
Those among you who have gambled know the euphoric high that winning provides. You’ve beat the system and used your skill (or luck) to essentially get something for nothing.
Losing money in a bet or game, on the other hand, brings on a cold sweat and a sinking feeling in your gut that can only be remedied by one thing – winning. This is why people lose big: not because they think it’s wise to keep betting in a losing game, but rather to get rid of that horrible feeling in the pit of the stomach.
Research from Yale and Duke universities suggests that chimpanzees and bonobos experience similar emotions to humans when their bets fail to pay off. The great apes risked peanuts for a chance to win either a “boring” food (cucumber) or win a banana as a reward. A failed bet resulted in expressions of frustration and anger.
The study found both chimps and bonobos – also known as dwarf chimpanzees – displayed negative emotional responses including pouts, moans, scratching and banging – a type of tantrum thought to reflect anger in apes.
Researchers studied orphaned apes at two sanctuaries in the Republic of Congo. The chimps and bonobos have all rescued from the bushmeat trade, meaning that they are wild born and presumably exhibit behavior closer to their wild counterparts than those bred in captivity.
Read more about the study and watch an example of one of the tests on the BBC News website.
The study reminded me of a more basic experiment involving monkeys and fairness. Two capuchin monkeys in different plexiglass enclosures complete a simple task in order to receive a reward. One passes a rock to a researcher and is rewarded with a piece of cucumber, which she then happily eats. The other completes the same task and is rewarded, in full view of the first monkey, with a grape. The researcher repeats this experiment and… well, see for yourself in this video clip from the infamous TED talks.
Fascinating as it is, I feel a bit guilty about my laughter over a captive, tormented monkey.