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Emotional Apes

June 12, 2013

Like humans, chimps and bonobos can be sore losers.



Simian sore losers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some people can get pretty emotional if a gamble doesn’t pay off – throwing a fit, upturning tables, or storming off in anger. Now, there’s evidence that our closest cousins can be sore losers, too. Yale anthropologist Alexandra Rosati and her colleagues gave wild chimpanzees and bonobos two choices.They could take a risk and pick a covered bowl that hid either a highly desirable food like a banana, or an undesirable food, like a cucumber. Or, they could play it safe and pick a bowl they knew contained a moderately desirable food. The researchers found that if the apes gambled on the banana and lost, they would often scream or pout, and also show regret at their choice.

ALEXANDRA ROSATI (Yale University):

We noticed that the apes would actually try to switch their choice when they found out that they lost.


The research suggests that our emotional responses to risk-taking may have a biological basis. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society. 

Wild chimpanzees, Republic of the Congo. (Alexandra Rosati)