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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Monkey Pay-Per-View

Air Date: Week of

Living on Earth's Jennifer Chu reports that our obsession with the glamorous and the powerful isn't just a human trait - it's also monkey business.


GELLERMAN: Just ahead: This year's Superbowl gets to the root of an environmental problem. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Jennifer Chu.

CHU: To catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrity, you may be willing to spend a few dollars on a glossy magazine.

Turns out: monkey see, monkey do, too.

Researchers at Duke University have discovered that male rhesus monkeys will give up a portion of their favorite fruit juice to look at images of a female's hindquarters or view socially dominant monkeys - the same way humans pay for a peek.

Neurobiologists offered male rhesus monkeys a choice: take a large portion of cherry juice; or take a smaller portion of cherry juice and get the chance to look at photos of other monkeys.

On average, the monkeys would forego eight to ten percent of their juice allotment if the researchers let them view the faces of powerful males or a female's derriere.

But, the monkeys had to be bribed with larger amounts of juice to get them to stare at subordinate males.

Researchers say weighing the value of social interactions among animals could help understand human behavior, specifically, of people with autism who lack the motivation to connect with other humans.

They add, the study may also help us understand people's fascination with gossip magazines and our ongoing obsession with Hollywood. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Jennifer Chu.

GELLERMAN: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

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[MUSIC: Ali Akbar Khan "India Blue" A World Instrumental Collection (Putomayo) 1996]



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