chimps, fairness and insult

Chimps choose more rationally than humans

Published: Oct. 8, 2007 at 2:07 PM
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LEIPZIG, Germany, Oct. 8 (UPI) — German researchers have demonstrated chimpanzees make choices that protect their self-interest more consistently than do humans.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig studied the chimp’s choices by using an economic game with two players. In the game, a human or chimpanzee who receives something of value can offer to share it with another.

If the proposed share is rejected, neither player gets anything.

Humans typically make offers close to 50 percent of the reward. They also reject as unfair offers of significantly less than half of the reward, even though this choice means they get nothing.

The study, however, showed chimpanzees reliably made offers of substantially less than 50 percent, and accepted offers of any size, no matter how small.

The researchers concluded chimpanzees do not show a willingness to make fair offers and reject unfair ones. In this way, they protect their self interest and are unwilling to pay a cost to punish someone they perceive as unfair.

The study appeared in the Oct. 5 issue of the journal Science.

Spontaneous Altruism by Chimpanzees and Young Children

doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050184

“People often act on behalf of others. They do so without immediate personal gain, at cost to themselves, and even toward unfamiliar individuals. Many researchers have claimed that such altruism emanates from a species-unique psychology not found in humans’ closest living evolutionary relatives, such as the chimpanzee. In favor of this view, the few experimental studies on altruism in chimpanzees have produced mostly negative results. In contrast, we report experimental evidence that chimpanzees perform basic forms of helping in the absence of rewards spontaneously and repeatedly toward humans and conspecifics. In two comparative studies, semi–free ranging chimpanzees helped an unfamiliar human to the same degree as did human infants, irrespective of being rewarded (experiment 1) or whether the helping was costly (experiment 2). In a third study, chimpanzees helped an unrelated conspecific gain access to food in a novel situation that required subjects to use a newly acquired skill on behalf of another individual. These results indicate that chimpanzees share crucial aspects of altruism with humans, suggesting that the roots of human altruism may go deeper than previous experimental evidence suggested.”

Citation: Warneken F, Hare B, Melis AP, Hanus D, Tomasello M (2007) Spontaneous Altruism by Chimpanzees and Young Children. PLoS Biol 5(7): e184 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050184

Received: February 8, 2007; Accepted: May 14, 2007; Published: June 26, 2007

Birds see mangetic field?

Findings suggest that migratory birds use their visual system to perceive the reference compass direction of the geomagnetic field and that migratory birds “see” the geomagnetic field.

Citation: Heyers D et el (2007) A Visual Pathway Links Brain Structures Active during Magnetic Compass Orientation in Migratory Birds. PLoS One 2(9): e937. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000937

Alex The Grey Parrot died at age 31

From http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/2007/09/alex_the_grey_parrot_colleague.php
Irene Pepperberg purchased Alex from a Chicago pet store in 1977, when he was approximately one year of age, or perhaps younger. Alex, being quite a character, quickly took over Pepperberg’s life by teaching her all he knew about cognition and communication. As early as 1999, he was able to “identify 50 different objects and understand quantities up to 6; he could distinguish 7 colors and 5 shapes, and understand the concepts of ‘bigger’, ‘smaller’, ‘same’, and ‘different’, and he was learning ‘over’ and ‘under’,” according to the New York Times. By 2002, Alex had a vocabulary of more than 100 words.