Food for Grooming

We’ve blogged before about the many human-like characteristics of primates. New research indicates that in addition to exchanging goods and services, monkeys adjust exchange rates as supply changes. Ronald Noe, a primate ethnologist, measured the grooming behavior of vervet monkeys in southern and eastern Africa. Among these monkeys, grooming is a hot commodity and is viewed by scientists as a form of “payment” for services. Noe found that when the number of food providers increased, each individual food provider received less grooming. (Note: the epilogue of SuperFreakonomics contains a more … uh … dramatic type of exchange between monkeys.) [%comments]


Maybe not as interesting from an economics point of view, but what about the primate-like characteristics of humans ?
What models our behavior, our response to incentives as dictated by evolutionary biology ?

Richard, UK

If only: 1) Monkey grooming was transferable and valued by humans and 2) I could become the sole supplier of food for monkeys. If thats not a novel business idea...


It would be interesting to see if monkeys bundle options to be groomed by other monkeys and sell these as a hedge against variability in future banana yields.

Cyril Morong

Time had an article about how monkeys pay for sex in January 2008. Here is the link,8599,1700821,00.html


You made me LOL out loud.



Considering the hereditary links, shouldn't that have been "primate-like behaviour of humans"?

Who are we trying to fool, anyway?


This is only interesting if the marginal or even average cost of the food decreased.

If it was merely a case of payment (i.e. grooming) between split between multiple sellers, without any change is the price (i.e. amount of grooming) there's nothing intersting going on here. No law of supply & demand. No economic thinking. Nothing.

In fact, the Planet Money podcast you link implies that there IS something interesting going on here -- if only by their excitment -- but offers no evidence or explanation that there is.