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Monkey hilariously reacts to receiving unequal pay

Oct 8, 2012 By Abraham

In a simultaneously fascinating and funny experiment, scientists tested whether giving two monkeys different “payment” for completing the same task would affect their behavior. It did…

(via Reddit)


  1. Petar Subotic says:

    I first saw this clip in a TED talk by Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals. It is filled with other interesting experiments and cool clips if you want to check it out.

  2. Ling Wong says:

    It is not really quite unequal pay. It might be that cucumbers are very unsavory to monkeys. So this might be like paying one person in coupons to a clothing store, and another person in cash. Perhaps a better example would be that of giving one monkey half a grape the other monkey a full grape for the same task.

    1. karen says:

      Did you not listen to the lecture? He said that if both monkeys were only being given cucumber, they would happily do the activity 25 times. They like cucumber. They like grapes MORE. So, unequal.

  3. Matt Wickham says:

    What a surprise: monkeys are intelligent. I can see no purpose in this research, it is expensive, cruel and condescending. These animals should be repatriated to their natural habitat, and the so-called scientists need to get proper jobs that produce some useful results in return for their generous research grants.

    1. JK says:


      What’s cruel about it? You have no idea what their every day habitat is like (and neither do I). Did you hear that part about where they live in community together and the scientist brings them in for the test? A plus for the monkeys is that they don’t have to worry about being eaten by another animal. That might not be a bad trade…

      Although, I’m with you on the amount of money being taken from my taxes to pay for stuff like this.

      1. Clara says:

        And I’m disturbed by those who dismiss research they don’t understand as “stuff like this” and a waste of taxes. First, I doubt if you even know whether or not this experiment received government funding, so there’s that. But more important, usually experiments that, in isolation, may look “stupid” to the layman have serious, significant ramifications as part of larger research goals.

  4. Rina Deych, RN says:

    This is not “cute” or “funny.” To those who don’t “get” what is cruel about it: How would you like to be locked in a cage and have your mind f**ked with? This is truly wasteful pseudo-science, regardless of who is paying for it. Shame on our un-evolved species. And, Clara, you allege that people like us don’t see the big picture, when it is exactly opposite. Most strides in human and animal medicine have been made by epidemiological, genetic, and clinical studies in the SPECIFIC species results are being sought for. This groping-in-the-dark experimental bullsh**t is completely useless and wasteful.

  5. David says:

    Everyone who thought this was funny or cute or evil or cruel missed the entire point of the experiment. The fact the moderator injected some humor into his talk does not mean he thought the experiment was funny. I believe there were two main points exhibited by this experiment. The first is that even (and for those of you who are particularly sensitive to animal experimentation, I am not demeaning monkeys here) lower animals like monkeys can understand unfair and biased activities. And since they understand the concept of fairness and the exercise of a lack of it, they react with aggravation if they are the one that is being subjected to the unfair practice. Hmmmm, I wonder if humans might not be aggravated by the exercise of unfair treatment, say a woman in the workplace receiving only 72% on average of their male peers on the job. Or, maybe Wall Street gone crazy and paying themselves hundreds of millions of dollars for ripping a few hundred thousand people causing the great recession of 2008.

  6. Rol says:

    Without wanting to wade into a debate on ethics of experimentation on animals (I find it distressing, personally, and I don’t believe that we are richer or wiser for the confined and degrading conditions that these monkeys are kept in), these experiments should be used to teach us a bit about ourselves. In a profit-driven, self-centred economy based on the exploitation of resources, where humans themselves come to be managed as resources, we have 1001 examples of working relationships where the inequality of reward (or PAY if you like) is obvious and apparent and explicitly a feature of the system.
    Monkey 1 and Monkey 2 presumably have equal abilities to recognise unfair pay.
    You will notice that Monkey 1 is frustrated by the arrangement. Notice also that Monkey 2 sees nothing wrong with it, or knows better than to question the dynamic. Now, apply the situation to our global economy, and consider which monkey would be occupying Wall Street and which monkey would be claiming that he deserve his raise, for all his hard work?

  7. Paula says:

    Hello there,

    Firstly, this is a great experiment about the nature of kindness. This is clearly well-intentioned. We need this information about the essence of kindness to explain ethics and morals in a world that is largely secular and not exclusively based on ONE religion… which is good, because we are acting with kindness ourselves to allow people to be who they are and keep their identities. Secondly — did you miss that in the intro these monkeys ARE NOT KEPT in these small spaces? They are put there for this test. There is no cruelty in this experiment. Tests that cut off rabbits’ eyelids — yes, horrible cruel. This isn’t that. The point of psychological studies that show that kindness is inherent — good heavens, what COULD be more important than that? If you don’t see this, um, you’re not looking or listening. Uselessness is in the head of the observer sometimes.

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