Income Inequality in Action, Monkey-Style

Legendary primatologist Frans de Waal presents a video in which two capuchin monkeys are given unequal pay for equal work. One of them gets paid in cucumbers, the other in grapes. Can you guess which one is happier?

How Smart Is the Octopus?

We've blogged extensively about the often human-like behavior of monkeys, but here's another animal that may give monkeys a run for their money: the octopus.

"Only recently have scientists accorded chimpanzees, so closely related to humans we can share blood transfusions, the dignity of having a mind," writes Sy Montgomery in a new article for Orion Magazine. "But now, increasingly, researchers who study octopuses are convinced that these boneless, alien animals—creatures whose ancestors diverged from the lineage that would lead to ours roughly 500 to 700 million years ago—have developed intelligence, emotions, and individual personalities."

Here's one example of the animal's intelligence:

FREAK-est Links

Using science for art, and art for science. How much does it cost to go to Hogwarts? Stephen Hawking: If we can colonize space within 200 years, humans will survive. World map: 7 billion people and their income. Creating a market for cigarette butts: at $3 a pound, it’s well worth it. Monkeys and fair […]

Why Did the Monkey Steal?

There's a crime wave at London Zoo. We've blogged in the past about monkeys that can do amazing things: use money, be rational actors, even learn grammar. Add to that list baby Bolivian monkeys who have taken to stealing sunglasses from visitors. But, say their keepers, the monkeys' motives have nothing to do profit-maximizing.

Self-Doubting Monkeys

There's been a lot written on this blog about the amazing things monkeys can do. Here's more evidence that monkeys can be rational actors just like us: a new study reports that monkeys can feel self-doubt and uncertainty, and then make a rational decision based on that information.

Human/Capuchin Parallels Revisited

What's the most embarrassing thing about human decision-making? It's not that we make cognitive mistakes, says Yale cognitive psychologist Laurie Santos, in this recent TED talk. It's that we seem doomed by our biology to make the same predictable mistakes over and over.

Food for Grooming

Among these monkeys, grooming is a hot commodity and is viewed by scientists as a form of "payment" for services.

Monkeys Too Are Freaked Out by Almost-Reality

Scientists have long been aware of the “uncanny valley” phenomenon, which describes “that disquieting feeling that occurs when viewers look at representations designed to be as human-like as possible — whether computer animations or androids — but somehow fall short.” This might explain why people loved The Incredibles but were disturbed by the too-real characters in the film version of The Polar Express.

Monkeys Can Do It Too

A new study finds that monkeys can distinguish between "right" and "wrong" grammatical patterns.

Tierney on Keith Chen, Monty Hall, and Psychology Experiments

John Tierney hits a home run with this fantastic column about a recent paper by Keith Chen (whose work on capuchin monkeys has previously caught our attention). The Monty Hall problem is as follows: You are chosen to compete on Let’s Make a Deal. There are three curtains. Behind one of the curtains is something […]