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!
Complementing conventional antibiotics
24.05.2018 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy