WITH INCENTIVE, MONKEYS CAN COORDINATE
The New York Times, Sindya
N. Bhanoo, April 8, 2013
Researchers have found that monkeys can
cooperate to solve a problem, demonstrating that coordination among groups
does not necessarily require language. The scientists, who report their
findings in the journal Current Biology, had a group of vervet monkeys play
a game called the forbidden circle. A single low-ranking female was trained
to open a container holding a large amount of food -- but only when dominant
monkeys in the group stayed outside an imaginary circle. For anyone to get
any treats, they all had to coordinate their activity and show restraint.
It took 30 trials, but after learning the rules, all the monkeys
"Think of a human situation where a schoolteacher has
a movie in mind if the class is quiet for an hour," said Ronald Noe , a
behavioral ecologist at the University of Strasbourg in France. "That is
really hard for kids to understand -- if one is noisy, the film is not
Yet, trial after trial, the monkeys patiently waited for one
another to understand the game.
"They don't react with aggression,"
Dr. Noe said. "Everyone was keen on opening the box as fast as possible."