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Self-Doubting Monkeys

Photo: Ricky Li

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. The study first trained the monkeys to play a video game with a joystick. The reward-based game had three choices: a correct answer (which rendered a treat), an incorrect answer (which gave a pause in the game), or “I’m not sure” (no effect). Scientists found that monkeys chose to pass when they found the question too tricky. John David Smith tells the BBC: “Monkeys apparently appreciate when they are likely to make an error…they seem to know when they don’t know.”