And new evidence from a Duke University study is showing that chimpanzees and bonobos, our closest living primate relatives, treat the problem the same way we do.
In studies conducted at the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Republic of Congo and Lola ya Bonobo Sanctuary in Democratic Republic of Congo, researchers found the apes prefer to play it safe when the odds are uncertain.
Graduate student Alexandra Rosati and Brian Hare, an assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology, asked 16 chimps and 14 bonobos to make choices between two bowls of treats.
Though no dice or chips are involved, this kind of experiment is considered a "gambling game," Rosati said. The apes could choose between a safe bet that would always provide a food they liked somewhat less, peanuts, or a variable bet in which the payout could be either a highly-preferred big piece of banana or less-desirable cucumber slice.
The apes "gambled" by making a choice of one bowl or the other. They knew the odds before they chose because the experimenter showed them bowls with two potential outcomes, but then gave them only one. Depending on the contents of the bowls, there could be a 100 percent chance of receiving a banana, a 50 percent chance, or a 0 percent chance.
The apes readily distinguished between the different probabilities of winning: they gambled a lot when there was a 100 percent chance, less when there was a 50 percent chance, and only rarely when there was no chance.
In some trials, however, the experimenter didn't remove a lid from the bowl, so the apes couldn't assess the likelihood of winning a banana.
The odds from the covered bowl were identical to those from the risky option: a 50 percent chance of getting the much sought-after banana. But apes of both species were less likely to choose this ambiguous option.
They were willing to take the chance on the covered bowl when they knew the only alternative was food they didn't like (the cucumber), or no food at all. But, like humans, they showed "ambiguity aversion" -- preferring to gamble more when they knew the odds than when they didn't.
Given some of the other differences between chimps and bonobos, Hare and Rosati had expected to find the bonobos to be more averse to ambiguity, but that didn't turn out to be the case.
Researchers looking for the foundations of economic decision-making have been doing studies like this on a variety of species, but these two apes are the two species most closely related to humans, Rosati said.
"These results suggest that understanding how animals forage may be more complex than previously thought," Rosati said.
Decision-making matters to animals in the wild who have to make choices about which resources to pursue on the fly, without knowing if their choices will pay off. "It may be that different decision mechanisms come into play when animals are faced with choices when they have incomplete knowledge," Rosati said.
"These results also suggest that some of our human economic biases may be evolutionarily ancient, predating modern markets: chimpanzees and bonobos act just like us when faced with a primate slot machine," Rosati said.
CITATION: "Chimpanzees and bonobos distinguish between risk and ambiguity," Alexandra Rosati & Brian Hare. Biology Letters, November 2010. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2010.0927
Karl Leif Bates | EurekAlert!
How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology