Monkey See, Monkey Want

Fact: Monkeys hate inequality.

In a simple yet ingeneous experiment, Frans de Waal has perfectly demonstrated how our desire for equality is rooted deep in our instincts.

Two monkeys in cages next to one another are trained to perform a simple test – hand a rock to the scientist. At first, both monkeys are rewarded with a piece of cucumber; under these conditions, both monkeys will happily repeat the process as many times as you like and enjoy their delicious cumumber reward.

However, give one of the monkeys a grape (a far more nutritionally valuable option) as a reward  but not the other, and the monkey who is being rewarded with cucumber throws its toys out of the pram. Literally, it starts throwing the cucumber at the scientist.

This elegant experiment proves beyond a doubt that equality, rather than being a human construct, is a concept that evolved long before we did.

For the video itself, see the TED talk (highly recommended).

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license, taken by John Snape,_Hear_No_Evil,_Speak_No_Evil.jpg


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