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Monkey Business
September 22, 2003 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Monkeys down tools. - Demand fair pay for a fair day's work. " Researchers taught brown capuchin monkeys to swap tokens for food. Usually they were happy to exchange this "money" for cucumber. But if they saw another monkey getting a grape - a more-liked food - they took offence. Some refused to work, others took the food and refused to eat it. "
posted by Blue Stone (21 comments total)

 
they should have used non-union monkeys.
posted by quonsar at 10:00 AM on September 22, 2003


The original research paper.
posted by liam at 10:03 AM on September 22, 2003


the NYT did a thing on this, too, tying it into the Supreme Court and fairness and laws.

It's really interesting how even animals recognize unfairness.
posted by amberglow at 10:04 AM on September 22, 2003


Power to the PRIMATES!
posted by squirrel at 10:05 AM on September 22, 2003


Speaking from experience, if you want to trawl monkeys for parasites, then the fair price is one banana.
posted by bifter at 10:18 AM on September 22, 2003


Monkey troop rescue their orphan from police station
posted by homunculus at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2003


The alpha monkey eventually cashed in all his grape options when he outsourced their jobs
posted by ElvisJesus at 10:20 AM on September 22, 2003


What's going on here is more complicated than 'fair pay for a fair day's work'. It's how we decide what is 'fair', and that's by comparison with our peer group. Apparently 'inequity aversion' is common among us primates. A slice of cuke is fine, as long as everyone else is getting the same thing. But let some be treated differently, and watch the fur fly!

I suppose this is good. But it's also a problem when employers try to reward especially good work, or especially unusual talents with higher pay. For example, unionized public school teachers with similar seniority are typically paid the same, whether they're PE teachers or math/science teachers. Thus, the schools are always short on math/science teachers, which is a rarer skill/interest. But if you try to attract math/science teachers by paying them more, the unions squawk, because of 'inequity aversion'. Merit pay schemes to encourage excellence suffer the same fate.

I think it's good that we're unhappy with, and try to correct, inequity. But we invariably try to define inequity in ways that benefit us personally.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:40 AM on September 22, 2003


So it's the union's fault then slithy_tove? Heh. Try again.

Damn communist monkeys. Why do they hate America so much?
posted by nofundy at 11:13 AM on September 22, 2003


The schools are always short on math/science teachers, which is a rarer skill/interest.

But I thought teachers unions were exempt from the law of supply and demand?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:49 AM on September 22, 2003


Oh, that monkey's going to pay. FLAVEN!

homunculus: that story was noted on Mefi over a year ago. I actually made a animated short about it for school. Awesomest. Story. Ever.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:11 PM on September 22, 2003


"So it's the union's fault then slithy_tove? Heh. Try again."

Offer a refutation please. I realize it's much easier to offer a glib caricature, but assuming that it's true that schools are having a bitch of a time finding good math and science teachers no problem finding good gym teachers, there's got to be some sort of explanation.

Additionally, I wouldn't call a second-order consequence of a hardwired response "blaming" something. More explaining.

This research is awesome for a different reason. If corroborated, it offers significant observed evidence for the position that I've held for a while now, namely that Hobbes & co. were and are wrong about human nature. Wheee.
posted by kavasa at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2003


Also, now that I've posted, I've decided to come back to you nofundy, because argh your comment grates like sand in the urethra, especially since it seems somewhat endemic to mefi. People read comments and it looks like they spend their time just itching for an occurence of Homo Sapiens Troglodytus. So they interpret a comment like slithy_tove's in the worst possible light - a light which is often pretty ridiculous - and then use the opportunity to lump the original commenter in with McCarthy's witch-hunters.

Ugh. Stop it. It's such a fucking waste of time. Especially since any sort of meaningful discussion should be predicated at least in part on the realization that all participants in a discussion of society, norms, and what-have-you think that their position is for the best. They think that their way will improve overall human happiness. People forget that, and they shouldn't. You're not the only one occupying the moral high ground (that position is of course reserved for fold and mutilate).
posted by kavasa at 2:55 PM on September 22, 2003


Only female monkeys show this pique, the researchers found. Males were much less sensitive to inequality. Their minds may have been on other things, says Janson: "Males care about sex, and females care about food. The males might not consider the food differences worth worrying about."
Much as I always suspected. Men are from Mars etc. I wonder if the researchers have stumbled on the reason men and women have so much trouble getting along sometimes.
posted by dg at 3:21 PM on September 22, 2003


M: "What's the problem? We've gone out for dinner! It's food!"
F: "But it's McDonalds!"

F: "What's the problem? It's a car, it goes!"
M: "But it's a yellow Yugo!"
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:36 PM on September 22, 2003


bifter, where, how, when?!?
posted by amberglow at 7:56 PM on September 22, 2003


"Males care about sex, and females care about food. The males might not consider the food differences worth worrying about."

Nah, the female monkeys are just sensitive to the nuances of status signified by the differences in food. The male monkeys, big lunkeads as they are, just want to watch the game and talk about monkey booty.
posted by jokeefe at 8:00 PM on September 22, 2003


New research on an old thesis. A google search on altruism on primates brings up lots more reading for those interested.
posted by skallas at 12:02 AM on September 23, 2003


amberglow: the monkey forest sanctuary in Bali, on honeymoon last summer. They don't put out for just anyone though - you definitely have to give off good monkey vibes (and a banana in the pocket helps). If you do though... *phew*... nothing will stop those those monkeys giving love.
posted by bifter at 2:47 AM on September 23, 2003


Geez, those same monkeys in Bali jacked me any my financee for our bananas. They are not to be messed with.
posted by thedude256 at 3:40 AM on September 23, 2003


So, if we're related to monkeys and also have an inate sense of social justice, how does this explain Republicans?

My theory is that they're getting all the grapes...
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:38 AM on September 23, 2003


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