The apes, which are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, seem to get the same level of satisfaction out of solving brain teasers as their human evolutionary cousins.
A study published by the Zoological Society of London shows that six chimpanzees who were given a game which involved moving red dice or Brazil through a maze of pipes enjoyed solving the puzzle whether they got a reward or not.
The researchers claim this suggests they got the same kind of psychological reward as humans get when solving problems.
Most problem solving witnessed in the animal kingdom, where animals use tools or navigate mazes, are with the aim of reaching food. Hyenas, octopuses and birds such as crows all show the ability to solve problems.
Chimpanzees have also been witnessed in the wild using tools such as a stick to forage for insects or honey in hard to reach places like tree stumps.
But ZSL researcher Fay Clark said their research said they could be motivated by more than just food.
She said: “We noticed that the chimps were keen to complete the puzzle regardless of whether or not they received a food reward.
“This strongly suggests they get similar feelings of satisfaction to humans who often complete brain games for a feel-good reward.”
Why yes… it is a part of my job that I get to interact and occasionally tickle chimps. This is my favourite noise in the whole world.
National Institute of Health: almost all of the 451 chimpanzees owned or supported by the National Institutes of Health that are now at research facilities should be permanently retired from research and moved to sanctuaries, with planning for the move to start immediately, a report from an N.I.H. council unanimously recommended Tuesday.
Photo Credit © Lee Celano for The New York Times
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All’s fair between chimps? Psychologist Darby Proctor of Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Lawrenceville, Ga., and her colleagues say chimpanzees tend to react in a way that recognizes fairness. “Humans and chimpanzees show similar preferences in dividing rewards, suggesting a long evolutionary history to the human sense of fairness,” Proctor said.
However, other researchers claim that the chimps in the study “interacted little with each other and showed no signs of understanding that some offers were unfair and could be rejected.”
Josep Call and Keith Jensen co-authored previous studies where chimps “generally shared as little as possible with partners, who accepted most offers.”
Does Proctor’s new study, which compares the actions of her chimps with those of pre-school aged kids, prove that fairness can transcend species lines? Do humans even play fair anyway?
What if I told you there were populations of chimpanzees that made spears to hunt, lived in caves, and loved playing in water? These are behaviors usually associated with ancient humans, not chimpanzees. However, recent research has revealed that there are populations of western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) that engage in all of these behaviours, and it is challenging our current understanding of chimpanzee taxonomy.
A Chimpanzee comes up with an ingenious way to solve a puzzle.
Great apes may have ‘mid-life crisis’, a study suggests
Chimpanzees and orangutans may experience a “mid-life crisis” like humans, a study suggests.
An international team of researchers assessed the well-being and happiness of the great apes.
They found well-being was high in youth, fell to a low in midlife and rose again in old age, similar to the “U-shape curve” of happiness in humans.
The study brought together experts such as psychologists, primatologists and economists.
Results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“What we are testing is whether the U-shaped curve can describe the association between age and well-being in non-human primates as it does in humans,” psychologist and lead author Dr Alexander Weiss of the University of Edinburgh told BBC Nature.
Dr Weiss hoped the results would show a similar curve because of the close relationship between humans, chimpanzees and orangutans.
The study showed that male and female humans, chimpanzees and orangutans have the same U-shaped curve despite differences in social roles, and the phenomenon is therefore not uniquely human.
The sample subjects included 508 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and orangutans (Pongo sp.) of varying ages, from zoos, sanctuaries and research centres.
They were assessed by zoo keepers, volunteers, researchers and caretakers who had worked with the primate subject for at least two years and knew its behaviour.
The animals were numerically scored for well-being and happiness on a short questionnaire, which was based on a human well-being model but modified for use in non-human primates.
Dr Weiss said that the similarities between humans, chimps and orangutans go beyond genetics and physiology.
For example, chimpanzees face similar social pressures and stress factors to humans.
“You don’t have the chimpanzee hitting mid-life and suddenly they want a bright red sports car,” explained Dr Weiss.
“But there may be other things that they want like mating with more females or gaining access to more resources.”
Co-author Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at the University of Warwick, has researched human happiness for 20 years.
“One of the reasons we decided to look at ape data was that when you study humans, that U-shape is exactly the same when you adjust statistically for things like education, income and marriage.
For Prof Oswald it was “quite mind-blowing… to find it in apes”.
e concluded that “the mid-life crisis is real and it exists in… our closest biological relatives, suggesting that it is probably explained by biology and physiology”.
The bigger picture
Psychologist Dr Weiss said that this research opens a lot of doors.
He explained that for a long time this kind of mid-life crisis was considered something specific to human society and human lives.
“And what [this study] says is that it may be a part of the picture, but it’s clearly not all of the picture.
“We have to look deeper into our evolutionary past and that of the common ancestors that we share with chimpanzees, orangutans and other apes.”