Study of adolescent chimpanzees as emotional as humans

Study of adolescent chimpanzees as emotional as humans

Adolescent chimpanzees appear to share some risk-taking behaviors similar to those seen in humans, although they may be less impulsive. This is suggested by a study published inJournal of Experimental Psychology: General‘, conducted by scholars fromUniversity of Michigan . The team, led by Alexandra Rosati, assessed the relationship between potential cultural, natural and biological influences and adolescents’ willingness to live in a more risky way. The researchers involved 40 specimens born in a reserve in the Republic of the Congo, and subjected them to a series of games with food rewards.

“Our results show that adolescent chimpanzees experience, to some extent, the same psychological storm as human males,” says Rosati.

Experts explain that chimpanzees can live up to 50 years, so adolescence covers the time period between 8 and 15 years. In this stage, animals go through rapid changes in their hormone levels, begin to form new bonds with their peers, increase their level of aggressiveness, and compete for social status.


In the first session of the experiments, according to the scientists, the chimpanzees can choose between two packages, one of which always contains peanuts, which are considered pleasant to the monkeys, while the other can hide a desired food reward, such as a banana, or an unpleasant morsel, such as a cucumber. The animals’ emotional reactions and sounds were recorded, which could then decide whether to gamble with the second bowl or settle for safe peanuts. Experts also collected saliva samples to monitor hormone levels.

According to what has emerged from the investigations, adolescent samples tend to choose the ambiguous container more frequently than adults. However, frustration reactions to cucumbers were very similar regardless of the age of the animal. But in the second round of experiments, the scientists examined the mechanism for delaying gratification. In fact, the primates had to decide whether to get a slice of banana right away or wait a few minutes to get three. In these experiments, adults and adolescents tended to wait more frequently for delayed gratification.

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“Previous research indicates that chimpanzees are quite patient compared to other animals—Rosati notes—and our work indicates that the ability to wait in view of a higher reward actually develops in adolescence, even if adolescent specimens scramble for food during the wait. Hence, adopting More risky behaviors in adolescence seem biologically rooted in human and non-human primates, whereas impulsivity can only preoccupy our species.”.

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