Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum
Raves/Rants about the goings-on on a little blue inconsequential planet in a small and relatively uninspiring solar system which is on the far end of a small and wholly unspectacular galaxy in the large universe.

Re: About Inequality and Chimpanzees

Category: , , By Satchal
I found this article, a Q&A session with primatologist Frans de Waal, a pretty fascinating insight into instinctive animal behavior and how it relates to our own conduct. Follow the link to his own article to find additional details regarding his study of Bonobos, a close relative of the chimpanzee (whose DNA sequence differs from our own by a mere 1.23%, interestingly enough).

My favorite part: a description of the behavior of two Bonobos when offered a grape or a cucumber. When both were offered either grapes or cucumbers, they accepted each readily and performed their assigned tasks, even though grapes were preferred (i.e. they took what they could get when both got the same). However, when one was offered grapes and the other cucumbers repeatedly as a reward, the latter became increasingly disgruntled and soon rebelled over eating the cucumber or performing the task. I'll let you read de Waal's explanation regarding irrational vs rational profit-maximizing behavior, which I certainly couldn't improve on.

The study provides an interesting extension of an earlier post by El Subliminal. Would you be happy with what you got, or would you too become disgruntled when a co-worker was better compensated for performing the same task? And would it be better to hold out until you were equally compensated? The implication that this study potentially holds an important message for American society is perhaps a disturbing idea, as is this.

4 comments so far.

  1. El Subliminal May 8, 2008 at 5:45 AM
    Before the caffeine sets in , and I can
    actually carry out a mature discourse,
    I have to confess I find your use of the word 'disgruntled' many times in the post fascinating. As people are aware, it is one of my all time fave. words.

    ok back to work..
  2. Tracer Bullit May 8, 2008 at 6:10 AM
    I think the real question here is, is the opposite of disgruntled gruntled? And have you ever felt gruntled before?
  3. El Subliminal May 8, 2008 at 7:56 AM
    so the article is fascinating.

    But I think there is a crucial difference
    between humans and chimps (ok most humans not named dubya..).

    If everything is equal, the rational response is what is stated in the article.

    However if everything is not equal, then
    this is where humans are different.

    Humans can and often perform self-assessment. They constantly rank themselves in the herd and while the ranking algorithm is of course noisy, most rational humans are good judges of where they stand. So when the end results of similar tasks are not equal (I perform the same task worse
    than you), most rational humans might just be contented with a cucumber.
  4. Tracer Bullit May 8, 2008 at 10:13 AM
    Agreed, except wouldn't you say the qualification 'most rational humans' would extend to a small minority of the population?

Something to say?