Chimpanzees are among the closest relatives of humans, and many scientists are interested in their behavior and abilities. Recently, researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and colleagues from Austria, Great Britain, Germany, and the United States conducted an experiment that showed that chimpanzees are able to imagine and prepare for several different futures under conditions of uncertainty. This means that they can prepare for several mutually exclusive outcomes at once.
The experiment involved 15 chimpanzees who had to protect two pieces of food from a person who wanted to steal them. In the first case, the monkeys knew exactly which piece the human was claiming. In the second, the human could claim any piece, and the chimpanzees did not know which one to protect. Each piece of food was placed in front of the caged monkey on a separate tilting platform. Above the platform was a tube into which a person would throw a stone. When the stone fell, the platform would tilt, and the piece of food would roll over to the man – away from the monkey – and he could not reach it. To prevent this from happening, she had to hold the platform with her hand or foot. In one case, the tube was on one side, and the chimpanzees knew exactly which platform would lean. In the second, the tube was U-shaped, and the monkeys had to hold both platforms with both limbs to protect the food, no matter which platform the stone fell on.
Before the tests, the monkeys were taught by showing them how a stone would fall through a straight or U-shaped tube onto a platform with food, and the platform would tilt. Then they were given a piece of food from a second platform. During the experiments, one person would put food on the platforms and then a second person would come in and throw a stone into the tube. If the chimpanzees did not hold the right platform, the second experimenter would take the stolen piece of food and leave. The first experimenter would then return to give the chimpanzee the remaining piece. If the chimpanzee managed to protect the food, she got both pieces.
Results of the experiment
The experiment showed that if the monkey knew which piece of food the experimenter was going to steal, he protected that piece. And if it didn’t know, it was more likely to protect both of them. This shows that chimpanzees are able to imagine several different futures and prepare for them.
This is not the first experiment to show that animals are capable of preparing for multiple futures. For example, squirrels have the ability to remember the places where they hid their food, and if one place becomes unsafe, they can move their food to another place. Birds also have the ability to prepare for multiple futures-they can remember not only where their food is, but also where their enemies are.
Why study animal behavior
Studying animal behavior is important for understanding evolution and biology. It helps scientists understand how animals adapt to changing environments and how they survive in them. In addition, studying animal behavior can help improve conditions in zoos and other places.
Some scientists believe that studying animal behavior can help us better understand ourselves. As psychology professor Mark Bekoff notes, animals can teach us how to be better people. They can teach us patience, compassion, empathy, and other important qualities.