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New Study Suggests Monkeys Have Natural Instinct To Stay Away From Mean, Selfish, Unhelpful People
March 13, 2013
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This ever happen to you... you meet someone for the first time... and for some reason, you don't quite trust them?

At one time or another, we've all had that feeling. And apparently, monkeys have it too.

A new study published in the magazine Nature suggests monkeys tend to stay away from selfish, unhelpful or mean people.

The researchers decided to study seven capuchin monkeys because as a species, they tend to be very social and co-operative.

In the study, the monkeys watched two people. One person was opening a jar with a toy in it. The other person either agreed to help open it or said no.

Afterwards, both people offered the monkey food but the monkey was only allowed to take the treat from one person.

More often than not, the monkeys refused to take food from the unhelpful person and went with the other person.

On the flip side, if the person agreed to help open the jar, the monkeys would take the food from either one.

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"Humans can build up an impression about somebody just based on what we see," said the study author James Anderson, a comparative psychologist at the University of Stirling, in the UK.

He says the results with the monkeys suggest that this skill "probably extends to other species."

The researchers then tried different scenarios to see how the monkeys would respond.

In one case, as one person was opening a jar, the other person refused because they were busy opening their own jar.

The monkeys didn't really have any problem with that and generally accepted food from either person.

But if one person simply refused to help open the jar, even if they were available, the monkeys tended to stay away from that person.

"Explicit refusal to help is a signal that you're dangerous, that you're negative," says Kiley Hamlin, a developmental psychologist at the University of British Columbia.

Hamlin says these results suggest that this kind of intuition goes back to the early days of evolution.

Previous studies have shown similar results with chimpanzees and 3-month-old children.

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