Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Economy Student or Monkey Pimp?

(via a couple of sources)

Also on my lunch break, I read an article that stirred up my long-dormant behavioural science interests, and combined them with my burgeoning economic interests: monkey economics. (I figured this would interest Sylvana as well.) The New York Times has published a story on research currently being conducted by 'behavioural economist' Keith Chen. He's trained 7 Yale monkeys to use money: the monkeys get round silver discs that they exchange for food. Then Chen manipulates the environment, raising and lowering prices, for instance, and see how the monkeys respond with budgeting and so on.

The interesting thing is, during a freak 'bank robbery', one of the monkeys gave another monkey in exchange for sex. Completely untrained and unprompted. Naturally, this causing a bit of a stir at Yale, but think about it: does that mean that prostitution is a natural result of a money-using society. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the researchers created a wealth gap, with one monkey having access to significantly more money than all the others, and one or two in dire straits? Would the rich monkey institute a charity system? Would the poorer monkeys attack the richer monkey? Or would one of the middle-class monkeys start writing pamphlets demanding that the rich monkeys distribute the wealth equally, and suggesting that the experimenters don't really exist?

(Of course, if these were Harvard monkeys, they would have had some sense of decorum...)

1 comment:

Sylvana said...

I'm intrigued.

I never thought of monkeys + money before.