View Full Version : Money and Animal Behaviour- SB wins!

Kunga Dorji
10-21-13, 12:15 AM

Monkey business- some choice excerpts of an article re an experiment that shows the corrupting effect of money even on tiny brained capuchin monkeys:

An experiment in which capuchin monkeys were taught to use money, then taught to gamble.

This first step allowed each capuchin to reveal its preferences and to grasp the concept of budgeting.

Then Chen introduced price shocks and wealth shocks. If, for instance, the price of Jell-O fell (two cubes instead of one per token), would the capuchin buy more Jell-O and fewer grapes? The capuchins responded rationally to tests like this -- that is, they responded the way most readers of The Times would respond

Chen next introduced a pair of gambling games and set out to determine which one the monkeys preferred. In the first game, the capuchin was given one grape and, dependent on a coin flip, either retained the original grape or won a bonus grape. In the second game, the capuchin started out owning the bonus grape and, once again dependent on a coin flip, either kept the two grapes or lost one. These two games are in fact the same gamble, with identical odds, but one is framed as a potential win and the other as a potential loss.
How did the capuchins react? They far preferred to take a gamble on the potential gain than the potential loss. This is not what an economics textbook would predict. The laws of economics state that these two gambles, because they represent such small stakes, should be treated equally.

So, does Chen's gambling experiment simply reveal the cognitive limitations of his small-brained subjects? Perhaps not. In similar experiments, it turns out that humans tend to make the same type of irrational decision at a nearly identical rate. Documenting this phenomenon, known as loss aversion, is what helped the psychologist Daniel Kahneman win a Nobel Prize in economics. The data generated by the capuchin monkeys, Chen says, ''make them statistically indistinguishable from most stock-market investors.''

Once, a capuchin in the testing chamber picked up an entire tray of tokens, flung them into the main chamber and then scurried in after them -- a combination jailbreak and bank heist -- which led to a chaotic scene in which the human researchers had to rush into the main chamber and offer food bribes for the tokens, a reinforcement that in effect encouraged more stealing.

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys' true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

The final comment from the authors of "Superfreakonomics"

Chen's dreams of further experiments in capuchin capitalism never came to pass. The authorities who oversaw the lab feared that introducing money would irreparably damage their social structure.

Perhaps they were right: If the capuchins were so quick to turn to prostitution as soon as they got hold of some money, just imagine how quickly the world would be overrun with monkey murderers and monkey terrorists, with monkey polluters contributing to global warming and monkey doctors who fail to wash their hands.......

So- SB is right about money- scientifically proven!

Kunga Dorji
10-21-13, 12:15 AM
Assuming of course that Economics is a science!

10-21-13, 12:57 AM
It definitely shows an effect - but "corrupting" is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

Kunga Dorji
10-21-13, 01:32 AM
It definitely shows an effect - but "corrupting" is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?

Quite correct- but the types of behaviours generated by the experiment are the types of behaviours to which SB draws our attention.

10-21-13, 03:46 AM
Money corrupts everything - this proves it

10-21-13, 04:43 AM
Money corrupts everything - this proves it


10-21-13, 04:45 AM
It definitely shows an effect - but "corrupting" is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?
The corruption of 'corrupting' is in the lexicon of truth which beholds to nobody, not even self-committed intransigents.

10-21-13, 08:25 AM
I thoroughly enjoyed that, and it's definitely "food" for thought.

{Not joining your camp just yet, just saying}.

10-21-13, 08:48 AM
I wonder . . . had the monkeys never exchanged favors, or bartered,
for something they wanted before? Was this a completely new concept
for them?

Did the idiom of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" come
from watching monkey behavior?

10-21-13, 08:51 AM
Money draws the individual down 1 reward system.
Social behaviour takes us down another.

These are the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex reward systems respectively.

You can't take a 'left' AND 'right' at a turning
- you have to choose.

And we live in a world (a world of money) - where the turning right (towards social behaviour) is barred.

Eliminate money - and people will **however** naturally take a right turning.


As simple as that ... ... ...

10-21-13, 08:53 AM
ps ADDers PFC reward system is 'shrivelled' for a reason.

Emergence of an enforcedly social species.

Homo neosapiens sapienses.

As the famous song goes 'we can't get no satisfaction' from anti-social (materialistic) pursuits

10-21-13, 08:55 AM
Good question. They're social animals, this simply introduced a tangible, quantifiable token of exchange. Other experiments have shown altruism in animals, and not only in primates (or even mammals), and several primates turned out to be pretty selfish even without the motivation of tokens for rewards.

10-21-13, 09:38 AM
To me, .. I just don't get it. Where is the corruption? That monkeys prefer to gamble for pleasure rather than to avoid pain? Didn't we already know that?

We didn't prove that monkeys are corrupted by money. We have proven that with money, they behave as humans do. Only if you assume basic human economic behavior is corrupt, can you conclude from this that money corrupts monkeys.

Without that assumption, you've simply proven that most people behave like monkeys. Again, didn't we already know that?

10-21-13, 09:39 AM
So - thanks to Barliman.

Human beings are a product of our environment.
If one needs to go out and get money, grow up in an environment in which one needs to go out and get money, look up to people who have money
- then we inadvertently strengthen our personal drive towards the primitive/materialistic reward system and corrupt our capacity to derive reward from the social reward system.

The PFC and ACC reward systems.

People actually develop a true addiction to materialism (money, power, stuff)
- and dehumanise in the process.


Simply - enable people to live without money - and human beings will spontaneously change into a collaborative entity which'll focus on 'all for one and one for all'

- and lose the 'me me me' principle of addiction/primitive reward system