The two guys who wrote the recent best-seller Freakonomics apparently have started a column in the NY Times Magazine. Last Sunday’s column was about how Yale researchers economist Keith Chen and psychologist Laurie Santos have trained capuchin monkeys to use money, and have been watching what the monkeys do with it.
Excerpts (extra paragraphing and bullets added):
When taught to use money, a group of capuchin monkeys
- responded quite rationally to simple incentives;
- responded irrationally to risky gambles;
- failed to save;
- stole when they could;
- used money for food and, on occasion, sex.
In other words, they behaved a good bit like the creature that most of Chen's more traditional colleagues study: Homo sapiens.
The authors’ Web site includes additional material, including a link to Chen’s Web page at Yale, which comments that “Capuchin Monkeys display many of the hallmark biases of human behavior, suggesting that some of our most fundamental biases are evolutionarily ancient.”
When some Christians talk about the depravity of man and our inherent wretched sinfulness, I can only think that they, like the rest of us, have barely scratched the surface of understanding why we want what we want and do what we do. People like Keith Chen may help us learn more on that subject.