The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chimpanzees Respond to Strangers With Aggression, While Bonobos Demonstrate Curiosity

“The cooperative system is fundamental to the organization and structure of a Prout (the Progressive Utilization Theory) economy. It is an expression of economic democracy in action - cooperative enterprises give workers the right of capital ownership, collective management and all the associated benefits, such as profit sharing.[i] Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, the propounder of Prout, goes further and argues that an egalitarian society is actually not possible without a commitment to the cooperative system.[ii] The commitment is not just to an economic order but also to a cooperative ethic and culture. This essay explores some of the scientific evidence that humans have a predisposition to cooperation and in particular to economic cooperation. The evidence comes from a new and exciting field of research known as neuro-economics. We then turn to those insights provided by sociological studies.


Neuro-economics is the study of the neuro-physiological underpinnings of economic decision making. The field is new and providing unexpected insights into human economic behavior. Classical economic theory requires individuals to make complex calculations to maximize their personal advantage or utility. Utility, however, is a strangely ambiguous concept. On the one hand it is given a numerical value which implies the counting of something but on the other it is entirely abstract and not anchored to anything in the real world that can be counted. The advent of neurophysiology led to the idea that utility was really a surrogate for some chemical currency inside the brain, with most interest focused on serotonin molecules because these are known to be responsible for the experience of pleasure.

It turns out that a wide range of molecules of emotion[iii] impinge on the mental cost-benefit calculations that are supposed to take place inside the brain and they have unexpected effects. For example, in a ’sharing experiment’, person A was asked to share a sum of money with person B. These experiments demonstrated behavior inconsistent with neoclassical theory. People appear to put a high value on fairness. In a follow up experiment, persons A and B were placed in the same experimental scenario as before, but they were (unknowingly) given an intranasal administration of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a neuropeptide that plays a key role in social attachment and affiliation in animals and causes a substantial increase in trust in humans. In these experiments the effect of oxytocin was to increase the amount of money that A gives B. The experimenters concluded that “oxytocin may be part of the human physiology that motivates cooperation.”[iv] It is worth adding that such hormone-mediated interactions are not confined to human relationships but are also likely to be involved in human-animal relationships.[v]

Oxytocin is not the only neurochemical to promote cooperation. Recent observations of bonobo monkeys in the jungles of the Congo reveal fascinating contrasts with chimpanzees.[vi] Bonobos are matriarchal and show little aggression compared to the patriarchal chimps. Chimps respond to strangers with aggression, while bonobos demonstrate curiosity. When under stress, chimp tribes degenerate into fighting while bonobos respond to stress by engaging in collective sexual activity. Scientists have concluded that bonobos demonstrate higher levels of trust both with each other and with strangers. Of most interest, however, from a neuro-economics point of view, is the ability of the monkeys to perform a simple task requiring cooperation in retrieving some bananas that are out of reach. Although both species are intelligent enough to work out a solution (for example, by one climbing on the shoulders of the other or by one holding a ladder for the other), the chimps fail because they cannot trust one another. On the other hand, bonobos have no trouble cooperating to retrieve the bananas.[vii]“


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