Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chimps Are Not Selfish

New evidence shows that chimpanzees aren't   as selfish as many scientists thought .-

    Charles Darwin had more in  common with chimpanzees  than even he realized. Before  he was universally known for  his theory of natural selection,  the young naturalist made a  decision that has long been  hailed as the type of behavior  that fundamentally separates  humans from other apes.
      In 1858, before Darwin  published On the Origin of  Species, his friend Alfred Russel Wallace mailed Darwin his  own theory of evolution that  closely matched what Darwin  had secretly been working on for more than two decades. Instead of racing to publish and  ignoring Wallace’s work, Darwin included Wallace’s outline  alongside his own abstract so that the two could be presented jointly before the Linnean  Society the following month.  “I would far rather burn my  whole book than that [Wallace] or any man should think  that I had behaved in a paltry  spirit,” Darwin wrote. 
     This kind of prosocial behavior, a form of altruism that  seeks to benefit others and  promote cooperation, has now  been found in chimps, the species that Darwin did more  than any other human to connect us with. (about medical  testing in chimps, notes other  similarities that have been  documented in chimps and  humans.) In the study, published in the Proceedings of the  National Academy of Sciences USA, primatologist Frans de  Waal and his colleagues at the  Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University presented chimps with  a simplified version of the  choice that Darwin faced.
        Pairs of chimps were  brought into a testing room  where they were separated  only by a wire mesh. On one  side was a bucket containing 30 tokens that the chimpanzee  could give to an experimenter for a food reward. Half of the  tokens were of one color that  resulted in only the chimpanzee that gave the token receiving a reward. The other tokens  were of a different color that  resulted in both chimpanzees  receiving a food reward. If  chimpanzees were motivated  only by selfish interests, they  would be expected to choose a  reward only for themselves (or  it should be 50–50 if they were choosing randomly). But individuals were significantly more likely to choose the pro-social outcome compared with the no-partner control.
        De Waal says that previous  studies showing chimps to be  selfish may have been poorly  designed. “The chimps had to understand a complex food-delivery system,” De Waal wrote via e-mail, “and were often placed so far apart that they may not have realized  how their actions benefited others.” De Waal added that his study does not rule out the possibility that chimpanzees  were influenced by reciprocal exchanges outside the experimental setting such as grooming or social support.
        This latter possibility offers exciting research opportunities for the future. Chimpanzee society, like the greater scientific community that studies them, is built around such reciprocal exchanges. Science is a social activity, and sharing the rewards from one another’s research allows scientists to improve their work over time. Like the chimpanzees he would bond us with, Darwin recognized the utility of sharing rewards with others. Behaving in a “paltry spirit” was not the proper choice for a co-operative ape.



Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Affiliate Network Reviews