Scientists studying rhesus monkeys on an island off the coast of Puerto Rico have made a major discovery about primate social behavior. It turns out that if you’re going to steal another dude’s grape, make good and sure he isn’t looking…
Check it out from ABC News:
Psychologists from Yale University have been studying the monkeys on the island of Cayo Santiago for several years now to see if they share a human ability to analyze the thought processes of a human competitor, who also wants the grape, simply by studying the eyes. They have conducted a series of six experiments during which the monkeys could swipe a grape either from someone who was looking the other way, or from someone who was clearly looking right at the coveted grape.
Almost invariably the monkeys stole the grape from the human whose eyes were either blocked or averted.
Laurie R. Santos, an assistant professor of psychology who specializes in behavioral neuroscience, and Jonathan I. Flombaum, a doctoral candidate in cognitive psychology, tested 115 monkeys on the island to see if they assess a competitor’s mental state by “attending to the eyes.” In an article in the March 8 issue of Current Biology they say they found the first solid evidence that the monkeys do exactly that.
“Until now, we didn’t know that rhesus monkeys could do these things, and in fact there are many scientists who said they couldn’t,” says Flombaum.
That level of sophistication is probably surprising, even to monkey lovers, but Flombaum says the monkeys probably learned how to analyze a competitor’s eyes because it’s necessary for survival.
“When you live in a pretty large group of intelligent animals, especially where there’s a lot of social behavior, it’s a crucial ability,” he says.
As the old saying goes, the eyes are the window into the soul, and as modern science adds, into the brain as well.
And just because we’re feeling groovy, here’s an awesome compilation video of monkeys stealing stuff from unsuspecting humans. Yeah, yeah, we know… it’s not exactly the same thing, but we couldn’t help ourselves.
Enjoy a few minutes laughing, and then get back to work!
Has an animal ever stolen anything from you?
What about your heart?