The Rational Chimp

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig studied the chimp's choices by using an economic game with two players. In the game, a human or chimpanzee who receives something of value can offer to share it with another.

If the proposed share is rejected, neither player gets anything.

Humans typically make offers close to 50 percent of the reward. They also reject as unfair offers of significantly less than half of the reward, even though this choice means they get nothing.

The study, however, showed chimpanzees reliably made offers of substantially less than 50 percent, and accepted offers of any size, no matter how small.

The researchers concluded chimpanzees do not show a willingness to make fair offers and reject unfair ones. In this way, they protect their self interest and are unwilling to pay a cost to punish someone they perceive as unfair. (Full Story at upi)

This is just interesting to me. The story seems to implicate that chimps are more rational. I would have to disagree. The humans are displaying a more complex set of motives. By rejecting "unfair" offers they are, actually, posturing. One's position in the social order is more important than a handful of M&M's. In the end, one's societal position is of much greater value. If you don't believe me, think of this: Paris Hilton has nothing more to offer than you or I (truly), yet her societal position affords her more cash for a simple visit than you or I will make before the end of the decade. (I won't get into the debate on whether or not loosing one's dignity by making a sex tape for the social standing is rational/ethical) . I say humans are better at "protecting their self interest" in the long run. That is rational.