03 March 2006

Monkey Business

Today's NYT includes an article summarizing two articles in Science concerning chimpanzee behavior. (OK, they're not monkeys—but nobody would have understood the title of this entry if I had called it "Chimp Business"!).

In another series of experiments, Dr. Tomasello and Felix Warneken compared the altruism of 18-month-old children with that of juvenile chimpanzees. Chimpanzees were not as helpful as the children in complicated tasks. But in simple tasks — picking up a dropped sponge, for example — they readily came to the aid of humans. "All in all, this bolsters the view of chimpanzees as highly cooperative creatures," said Dr. Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University who was not involved in the research.

Carl Zimmer, "Chimps Display a Hallmark of Human Behavior: Cooperation" (03 Mar 2006) (fake paragraphing removed for clarity).

If the students drop the ball during Civ Pro, though, they demonstrate that the chimps are probably more cooperative than larval lawyers.