No monkey business!

It is no fun to get wholesome food when everyone else is eating sweets. Even chimpanzees would agree with that. In point of fact, they have a sense of justice, just like we do.

21. okt 2005 00:00

Sjimp/NYSGJERRIGPER/0304(Ikke bruk uten etter avtale med Nysgjerrigper)PHOTO: Corel

Some researchers trained a whole group of chimps to buy bits of cucumber using small plastic tokens. The chimps thought that was great, until they discovered that their neighbour got sweet grapes for the same tokens. That resulted in riotous protests in the cages. The chimps refused to turn in the tokens or to accept the cucumber, and some of them got so angry that they threw the food and the tokens out of the cage. The female chimps thought the treatment was especially unfair, and became most incensed if their neighbours got the grapes for free.

The researchers believe this sense of justice is an ancient characteristic that our ancestors developed many million years ago. Even back then, it was probably important to know something about justice when living together in large groups. Fortunately, chimps get over their anger more quickly than human beings. Once the food experiments were finished, the animals showed no signs of anger with the researchers or envy of the other chimps.

Translation: Linda Sivesind

*Published in 'Nysgjerrigper' no. 3/04*