Chimps > Humans

At the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute an economist designed a contest  based upon game theory and had chimpanzees and humans play it (separately).  As best I can understand, two players each had their own computer screen and could choose either of two squares, right or left, blind to the other’s choice.  One player won when he or she matched the other and the other won when he or she mismatched the other.  An optimum performance is evidently found in the Nash equilibrium (Nash of the Nobel prize and the movie A Beautiful Mind).  In some trials the roles were switched or conditions changed.  The players played for a small reward and the  experiment was repeated in another country where the humans received a greater reward.  In all the trials the chimpanzees figured out the game more quickly and came closer to the Nash equilibrium than the humans.  Go Chimps.


Why so?  The researchers conjectured about several possible explanations but could not answer the question at this stage.  Chimps have excellent short term memories and they are very competitive.  Humans are more cooperative and rely on language to do so, so they may not be so immediately engaged in the task but thought/felt too much about it as they tried to figure it out.  The chimps were more familiar with the computer set up and the task, though the humans were assuredly competent here as well.  

Perhaps if the researchers tried this with bonobos, who are  very cooperative and less aggressive, maybe  the bonobos would perform closer to the humans.  Stay tuned:

Here is a bonobo volunteer.





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