They huff. They puff. They throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. Children going through the “terrible two’s,” spoiled teenagers, and…chimpanzees, and bonobos?! Well, in this case, yes, chimpanzees and bonobos.
A new study in PLOS ONE shows that chimpanzees and bonobos display emotional responses and even throw tantrums when they do not get their intended outcome in a risk-reward challenge.
Alexandra Rosati from Yale University and Brian Hare from Duke University provided chimpanzees and bonobos at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo, with two different risk-reward challenges. The first experiment allowed the chimpanzees and bonobos to choose to wait to obtain greater rewards. The second involved gambling the chance of getting a tastier food reward against the possibility of receiving a non-food “booby” prize, if the risk didn’t pan out.
“Psychologists and economists have found that emotions play a critical role in shaping how humans make complex decisions, such as decisions about saving or investing money,” said Dr. Rosati. “But it was not known if these processes are shared with other animals when they make decisions about their important resources–such as food.”
Apparently, chimpanzees and bonobos do share similar emotive responses to humans because, according to the researchers, they displayed “affective and motivational responses when making decisions.” What’s more, it appears they even tried to cheat if they didn’t get their way. “Apes selectively attempted to switch their choices following undesired outcomes.”
“These results indicate that the types of emotional displays that apes exhibit in conspecific social interactions, such as negative vocalizations, are also exhibited in economic decision-making contexts,” the scientists conclude. “Overall, these results indicate decision-making in apes involves affective and motivational processes, similar to those seen in humans.”