Study: Apes willing to gamble like humans

Dec. 30, 2011 at 7:35 PM
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NIJMEGEN, Netherlands, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Apes appear to gamble, like humans, by calculating odds of rewards vs. risks in performing tasks, European researchers say.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands observed apes as they "gambled" on overturning cups concealing pieces of chopped banana, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

Faced with the choice of a guaranteed small piece of banana or a larger chunk of fruit hidden beneath one of a number of shuffled cups, the apes chose to gamble more than 50 per cent of the time, researchers said.

The apes were able to identify when the odds were stacked against them and when it was wiser to go with the safe bet, so when more cups were added and the odds of a bigger reward worsened, they became more cautious.

The research team said the ability is shared by chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans, although chimps and orangutans were found to be more prolific risk-takers.

"Our study adds to the growing evidence that the mental life of the other great apes is much more sophisticated than is often assumed," study leader Daniel Haun said.

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