Video game test finds monkeys play better than humans
Scientists put monkeys to the test to see how they play video games
The old saying, “It’s so easy a monkey could do it,” just got an entirely different connotation. A psychology student at Georgia State University set out to see if monkeys could play a video game and what she found was more than she had expected. Not only were they able to play the game, but they played it better than humans.
It was a simple video game, based on geometric shapes that required the subjects to identify each one. Choosing the correct solution resulted in a reward given, but there was a twist. The basic rule was to click on a blue triangle – simple enough – in order to receive the reward. After the human and primates had gotten accustomed to the game and understood the rules, the student switched things up.
In the next segment, the triangle would appear before the game actually started. The monkeys still went after the triangle, while the humans waited for the game to start. Nowhere had it been mentioned that waiting for the game to begin was a condition of selecting the triangle.
The student, Julia Watzek, explains, “We are a unique species and have various ways in which we are exceptionally different from every other creature on the planet. But we’re also sometimes really dumb.” She added on a Twitter post about the test, “Humans can get stuck doing things ‘the way we’ve always done it’ & miss out on easier solutions. Capuchins and rhesus monkeys don’t.”
A professor who oversaw the study, Sarah Brosnan, found the results fascinating. She said, “This was a great example of how a really elegant, simple study can be hugely impactful in various contexts. It’s adding to the larger body of literature on why humans can be so different from other primates.”