Posted by: hellonhairylegs | March 1, 2009

Animals aren’t NPCs

Bonobabe discusses how macaques are actually better than humans when it comes to not electric shocking their own species.



  1. I remember reading about other research demonstrating a basic sense of fairness in nonhuman primates. (I don’t remember the species, alas).

    The setup in this experiment had the monkeys separated by a sheet of glass, so they could see each other, and gave each of them some kind of puzzle to solve. The monkeys were given different rewards for doing the same thing, with one monkey clearly getting a better deal.

    When the monkey who was getting the better prize (a piece of fruit, IIRC) saw that the other monkey wasn’t being given the same thing, she would refuse to take her prize!

  2. I am also totally not surprised at seeing that nonhumans do so much better at not shocking each other. The reason so many humans go through with the Milgram scenario is because we’re so deferent to people with obvious authority that we’ll do horrible things rather than make waves. Macaques, not being human and therefore not having internalized (industrialized, Western) human social and cultural norms, will quite sensibly refuse to hurt one of their own just because some strange hairless ape is telling them to do it.

    This is not to say that macaques aren’t hierarchical; most primates have dominance hierarchies. But I think their dominance hierarchies are quite a different thing from our own culture’s fetishization of power for power’s sake, if that makes any sense to you.

  3. Yep, I would blame it on the internalising of patriarchy and masculinity and all that which requires us to harm each other. Western, Christian, Industrialised, Capitalist, all of the fun stuff we are made of! I am also not surprised that non-human animals are much better at not harming each other for the sake of it. We are pretty ugly beings!! Even experimenting on these monkeys for the sake of knowing that they would not electric shock each other is also in itself horrible and attests to the cruelty of humans.


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