Sunday, October 25, 2009

Money and Monkeys

A New York Times magazine (via Freakonimcs) article about monkeys that learned to use money:

The essential idea was to give a monkey a dollar and see what it did with it. The currency Chen settled on was a silver disc, one inch in diameter, with a hole in the middle -- ''kind of like Chinese money,'' he says. It took several months of rudimentary repetition to teach the monkeys that these tokens were valuable as a means of exchange for a treat and would be similarly valuable the next day. Having gained that understanding, a capuchin would then be presented with 12 tokens on a tray and have to decide how many to surrender for, say, Jell-O cubes versus grapes. This first step allowed each capuchin to reveal its preferences and to grasp the concept of budgeting.

Over time, the capuchins learned to behave just like people: gamble and trade goods, favors, and sex for these shiny useless discs.

tags: money, greatest, control, incentives, behavior

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