The more we learn about primates, the more we come to realize that we are less unique. Take our biases for example. Historically, we have liked to think that our biases are shaped by our socialization processes or our experiences with financial markets but, as it turns out, our assumptions are not entirely true. And just who spilled the beans on this one and once again burst our bubble? Why it’s those little apes we call Chimps and Bonobos!
Both chimps and bonobos display some of the same biases we have and it now appears that those biases are deeply rooted in BIOLOGY more so than in socialization processes. Here’s what I’m talking about….
I think we all know that we humans are influenced by spin to one degree or another. Product manufacturers and advertising companies most certainly know this and they play on it in an effort to make us buy their product or service. Now a new study from Duke University has come out and that study has found that chimps and bonobos are also influenced by spin! What’s next? Ads for our little primate cousins? I can see it now…Victoria’s Secret just for chimps and bonobos LOL.
The Duke University study has found that positive and negative framing of things makes a BIG difference not only to humans but also to chimps and bonobos. Researchers gave 23 chimps and 17 bonobos a choice between two snacks (nuts or fruit). The primates were more likely to choose fruits over nuts when they were offered in smaller amounts but were sometimes given more. Basically, the fruit was framed as a prize rather than a penalty and researchers especially noticed that this desire for the prize was very strong in the males.
In finding that our biases are more biological makes them harder to overcome, however, it is possible to create environments that may help us make better choices. What this study actually does is proves to us that our primate cousins have biases like we do and they are influenced by how things are framed, either positively or negatively. So our biases are NOT uniquely human as we have long thought and they have more to do with our biology rather than our socialization. However, I would say this is one element of our bias forming mental process and not the whole enchilada. Socialization DOES play a part in our forming of biases as does our environment along with several other factors. I suspicion that I could say the same about chimps and bonobos as well because both primates live in social groups and those social groups influence their behavior and mental processes just like they do in we humans. When it comes to mental processes we discover that those processes are complex and that has been proven time and time again by research psychologists and sociologists. The mere fact that we live in social groups means that we are NOT immune to the influences of that social group and visa versa too. Chimps and bonobos are social creatures just as human beings are social creatures. In my mind, the fact that this study used framing to influence which snake the primates most desired tells me that there are some complex mental processes going on in chimps and bonobos. Maybe not as complex as those in our minds but they are mental processes nevertheless that are similar to human mental processes.