July 23, 2008

Make A Monkey Understand Money, Prostitution Becomes Inevitable

This story is too funny to pass up, even though it is three years old, it is new to me.

Seven capuchin lab monkeys at Yale-New Haven Hospital were taught the concept of money (these monkeys lived in a commune of 750 square feet).
The "currency" used was a silver disc, one inch in diameter, with a hole in the middle. It took months for the monkeys to learn that the discs had exchangeable value.

Since capuchins are all about food and sex, but mostly food. The discs were used in exchange for treats.

The capuchins showed that they were risky gamblers, and had no interest in saving disks.

I'll just copy the article for the really good part:

Once, a capuchin in the testing chamber picked up an entire tray of tokens, flung them into the main chamber and then scurried in after them -- a combination jailbreak and bank heist -- which led to a chaotic scene in which the human researchers had to rush into the main chamber and offer food bribes for the tokens, a reinforcement that in effect encouraged more stealing.

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys' true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

I guess it is really just similar to just taking a woman out to real cheap place to eat before doing the nasty, except maybe to make it more similar, you give the date the money to pay for her meal. I know, it is reverse order to what happened in the lab, but it is all the same, when you think about it:)

Sex is worth a grape to female monkeys, but it is at least worth at least a two drink minimum to humans, so how could monkeys and and humans possibly share the same common ancestor?

I wonder how much a monkey charges for a half and half:) I figure it has to be something like two grapes.

Next time I have sex with my wife, I'm going to give her a grape, but I'm not going to explain why.

Note: Monkey branched off from the human evolution tree around 25 million years ago. Chimps and other non human great apes branched off between 5 to 7 million years ago, for those keeping score.


  1. Just more proof that we share a lot in common with our monkey relatives.

  2. "Next time I have sex with my wife, I'm going to give her a grape, but I'm not going to explain why."