We Are Not the Only Ones Who Feel Injustice

The Capuchin Monkey, a small and baby faced primate has some curious behaviors and habits. No, Michael Jackson’s Bubbles was not a Capuchin Monkey, but Justin Bieber’s Mally is.

It is very intelligent with skills ranging from hustling as a street performer to providing assistance to quadriplegics. It is trained to serve much like an assistance dog is trained to do. It can perform everyday tasks like opening bottles and microwaving food. But that is not why I wanted to introduce you to the Capuchin Monkey. REALLY!!!

This monkey, which likes to live in big colonies and wander wide areas, was chosen for a study: Determine how it responded to rewards. This particular study was conducted about ten years ago, at Emory University, by renown primatologist and professor Frans de Waal. He called this research, which involved studying the behaviors of two Capuchin Monkeys under a specific setting, The “Fairness Study.”  

He assigned the same tasks to these two monkeys. Whoever was finished first was awarded a cucumber. The winning monkey took its prize willingly but not with any extra glee. And that made sense because the Capuchin Monkey considers the cucumber to be an acceptable reward but not as rewarding as receiving a grape.  

The dynamics between the two monkeys was copacetic as long as the winning monkey received the cucumber and the other monkey received nothing. But the dynamics between the two monkeys changed when Dr. de Waal gave grapes to the monkey who came in second at the same task. When the” winning monkey” saw the other one receiving grapes for doing the EXACT same task but slower, the “winner“ had a fit. It rattled its cage, it pounded the table in protest, it was not going to let such an “unfairness” go unnoticed.

The monkeys clearly understood the distinction between the two prizes, and the “winning monkey” thought it had been given a lesser reward for finishing its tasks first.

How do you deal when you are provoked by injustice? Do you rant and rattle like the “winner monkey?”  Do you confront the provider of the reward for their “inequity?” Do you not care as all rewards are good rewards? Do you ask to see the “rules” before you play “the game?” Injustice is ever present. Do you deal with it on an emotional level or on a principled level?

And we thought we were the only ones who felt injustice. I thought you would want to know what I found.

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