The Loh Down On Science

Chimp Eye Blind

Monkey see, monkey don't give a fig?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Humans--most of us anyway--have an innate sense of justice.  We frown on bad behavior, even when it isn’t toward us.  Someone swipes a waiter’s tip, that isn’t cool--we may step in!

Researchers in Germany wondered if that was the same with our closest relatives, chimpanzees. So they devised an experiment with three chimps in three cages.  A chimp in cage A could get food from cages B and C to tumble into his own food tray.  Chimp C could fight back by pulling a rope that opened a trapdoor beneath the thief’s tray.  Poof!  Loot lost.  Thirteen chimps rotated through each cage. What happened?

When the chimps in Cage C were personally robbed? They went ape and violently tugged the rope. But when these same chimps watched their chimp neighbors get ripped off?  They just looked around, like, not my problem.

Maybe we’re better than them, or maybe chimpanzees just have a higher tolerance for monkey business!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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