Sunday, July 5, 2009
Two years ago, a group of Ugandan chimps provided a blow to the idea that humans are the only animals that truly behave selflessly to one another. These chimps showed clear signs of true selflessness, helping both human handlers and other unrelated chimps with no desire for reward.
The chimps could be helping their relatives in order to advanced the spread of its own genes, which family members are likely to share. Or they could be doing a favour for another individual, in the knowledge that it will be repaid later on. Either way, it's the do-gooder that eventually benefits. Humans, on the other hand, seem to flaunt this rule. We often help others who are not relatives and who are unlikely to repay the favour. We go out of our way to be helpful, and sometimes even risk personal harm to do so.
En 2007, Felix Warneken y colegas se forman el Instituto de Max Planck para la Antropología Evolutiva ha encontrado obligando pruebas que no somos solos. Contrariamente a estudios anteriores, ellos han encontrado que chimps también se comporta altruistically de un modo muy humano. Ellos echan una mano sin relaciones a forasteros sin la expectativa de recompensa, y aún van a grandes longitudes a hacer así.
In the first test, the chimps saw a human unsuccessfully trying to reach a stick that they themselves could reach. Warneken found that chimps were all too happy to pass the stick across, regardless of whether they were rewarded with a banana or not. In fact, the only thing that affected their readiness to lend a hand was whether the human was struggling for the stick or just passively staring at it.
Él encontró la misma cosa cuando él controló una estructuración similar con los 36 niños humanos de dieciocho meses, pero con cubos de juguete en lugar de palos. En aquella edad, las capacidades mentales de un bebé son pensadas a similar a aquellos de chimps, y de verdad la única verdadera diferencia entre los dos era que los bebés eran más rápidos con su ayuda.
Passing a stick across is obviously fairly easy but would altruism persist if there was effort involved? Warneken tested this by changing the experiment so that the chimps had to climb over a raceway and the toddlers had to walk past a series of obstacles. Those that helped in the first test were happy to do so in the second, again without any rewards.
A skeptic might argue that this doesn't show anything. During their stay at the sanctuary, the chimps could have learned that helping any one of their strange two-legged keepers was worth it. The acid test then, was to see if the chimps would help each other.
The first chimp - the subject - could only get into a room with food by lifting the chain attached to its door. But it couldn't reach the chain - only a second chimp, the observer, could do that. And once again, the chimps proved their selflessness, lifting the chain for their fellow chimps the vast majority of the time.