Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fair play: Monkeys share our sense of injustice


"Concern about fairness is always asymmetrical (stronger in the poor than the rich), and the underlying emotions aren't half as lofty as the ideal itself. It is true to say that our sense of fairness seldom transcends self-interest, that it is seldom concerned with something larger than ourselves. Look at how it starts in life. Children react to the slightest discrepancy in the size of their slice of pizza compared to their sibling's. Their shouts of "That's not fair!" never transcend their own desires.

That this sense of unfairness may turn out to be quite ancient in evolutionary terms as well became clear when graduate student Sarah Brosnan and I discovered it in monkeys. While testing pairs of capuchin monkeys, we noticed how much they disliked seeing their partner get a better deal. "

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" "The difference between a madman and a professional is that a pro does as well as he can within what he has set out to do and a madman does exceptionally well at what he can't help doing.” ― Charles Bukowski