Friday, October 21, 2005

Monkey business

The last post reminded me of something I learned in my Psych. Of Learning Class at Texas A&M University. My professor talked about what happened in market economies among monkeys when there was an overabundance of tokens and rewards. Basically, it brought about the worst in animal behavior. He cited a study by Frank A. Beach. The monkeys fought, demanded sexual favors from one another, hoarded their tokens. Here is part of that account:

When Bula and Bimba were living in the same cage, a large supply of white poker chips was offered to the two females. Bula promptly assumed ownership of nearly every one, and Bimba was left with a very small hoard. She protested vocally and with gestures, whining and holding out an empty hand. Like a rich man tossing a coin to a beggar, Bula impatiently selected one chip from her huge pile and dropped it negligently in BimbaÂ’s palm. When the vending machine was wheeled up to their cage, both animals rushed to spend their windfalls. Bula roughly shouldered Bimba away and took complete possession of the machine. The menu that day was slices of unpeeled oranges. Bula calmly bought and devoured one slice after another, and when Bimba started to complain, Bula handed her the peels!

Poor Bimba! Later, when she set up housekeeping with Velt, she found that she had jumped from the frying pan into the fire. Her new lord and masterwouldn'tnÂ’t permit her to pick up a single poker chip until he had carefully selected the ones he wanted. Then she was free to take the leavings; but they did her no good. As soon as the Chimp-O-Mat was available, Velt would use up his entire supply of chips and then turn to stare at Bimba. His glance was one that some human husbands would envy, for when he turned it on Bimba, she invariably dropped the few chips that she had been allowed to collect. Needless to say, Velt picked them up and, of course, spent them on himself!

Sounds like something I read in a magazine while waiting in the grocery store check-out line.

Maybe that is why Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. There is this really weird passage in Genesis where God basically says we have to keep them from the Tree of Life so that they don't live forever. In light of the chimp escapades that was an act of mercy.

Anyway, I think I'm going to go and sell off some of Caleb and Elise's toys.

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