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Monkeys Can Be as Spiteful as Humans

Capuchin monkeys can show 'spiteful' behavior.

Capuchin monkeys can show 'spiteful' behavior.

Monkeys do not like it when others get more food than they do, according to a new study.

Researchers from Yale and Harvard universities found Capuchin monkeys punish monkeys that get more food.

“This sort of, ‘If I can’t have it, no one can’ response is consistent with psychological spite, and it was previously thought unique to humans,” said Kristin Leimgruber of Harvard University. She is a co-author of the research study.

The researchers watched as some Capuchin monkeys were given more food than others. They found that monkeys getting the smaller share pulled a rope to collapse a table holding the other monkey’s bigger share.

Another lead researcher, Yale University psychologist Laurie Santos, explained over email.

"I think that we can conclude about humans is that some of our more embarrassing tendencies (e.g., not liking it when others get more than us in some situations) have relatively deep roots.”

Santos said the spiteful response was not present with another member of the ape species – chimpanzees.

An earlier study, she said, showed chimpanzees would collapse the table of other chimpanzees who took or stole food from them.

But they would not collapse the table of chimpanzees who just happened to have more food, Santos said. In other words, it was fine if another chimpanzee had more food -- as long as they did not steal it.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Bruce Alpert reported and researched this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

spite n. a desire to harm another person because you feel that you have been treated wrongly or unfairly

previouslyadv. happening at an earlier time

uniqueadj. used to say that something or someone is unlike anything or anyone else

embarrassingadj. to make (someone) feel confused and foolish in front of other people

tendencyn. a quality that makes something likely to happen or that makes someone likely to think or behave in a particular way

relativelyadv. when compared to other

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