Monkeys Don’t Like Inequality Either


By Barry Burch Jr.

Could it be that fairness is just one of those state of beings that even animals identify with?  Possibly.  According to Fras de Waal , a primatologist, ethologist, and professor of primate behavior at Emory University, monkeys make it very clear that when it comes to what is fair, they get it.

In a Ted Talks session, Waal explains that his first experiment on fairness has been replicated many times over.  He used two Capuchin monkeys, which are the type of monkeys that live in groups and understand each other.  The scientist put them side by side and provided them with a simple task.  If they completed it correctly, they were rewarded with a cucumber.  They made it clear that they could do the task 25 times in a row for the treat.

What is interesting is that just like humans, the monkeys recognize when they are not being treated fairly; for instance, if one monkey gets grapes instead of cucumbers, they realize it, said Waal.

In his second experiment, Waal made the decision to use new monkeys who had never done the task before with the idea that they would have a stronger reaction.  He was right.  The monkey on the right was given cucumbers and the monkey on the left was given grapes.  Though the first piece of cucumber was received by the monkey without problem, once it realized the other monkey was receiving grapes for the same task, it vibrantly showed its disapproval.

The second time the monkey performed the task, which was nothing more than give the trainer a rock, it received a cucumber again.  This time it ate a piece of it, looked at it, then threw it back at the trainer.  The audience roars with laughter.  The monkey then begins to bang outside of his cage resembling an unhappy customer banging on the table for the manager at a restaurant.  The third time the monkey is given a cucumber; its attitude does not change.  Again, it throws the cucumber back at the trainer and bangs outside the cage.

“This is basically the Wall Street protest you see here,” said Waal.

Barry is an award-winning writer and political scientist.  His business, “Barry Writes,” provides biographies, speeches, press releases and so forth to individuals and businesses in need of potent and compelling literature.  Reach him @ and

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