Check out my latest post for the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada.

Change is in you

Humans care about fairness.  I know for me personally, if there are a limited number of resources (e.g., food, shelter), I would feel bad making a decision that gave me more resources at the expense of a close friend or family member.  Of course, that is an anecdotal example of human fairness, but it has been studied scientifically!

Researchers have studied this scientifically by designing “the ultimatum game.”  This game tests whether humans always act in their material self-interest.  In the game, one person must decide how to divide a sum of money and/or resources between two people.  The first person (proposer) makes a proposal, and the second player (responder) either accepts or rejects the proposal.  If the responder rejects the proposal, both players receive nothing.  When human adults play this game, they typically split the resources equally.  This demonstrates that humans are sensitive to fairness.  However, primatologists are still…

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  1. Engaging in such abstract tasks as the ultimatum game causes humans to behave somewhat differently from normal, engaging in more analytical thinking etc (since the game is played with money or tokens, rather than the actual resources). I think it’s interesting to note that when the chimp game is modified to make it more abstract, closer to the version humans play, more human like behaviour emerges.

    For contrast, it might be interesting to make humans play the original, non-abstract trial the chimps were put through and see the results.

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