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Monkeys vs. Humans

Updated on July 4, 2011

Did we evolve from monkeys?

Humans are more closely related to modern apes than to monkeys, but we didn't evolve from apes either. Humans share a common ancestor with modern African apes, as do gorillas and chimpanzees. Scientists believe this common ancestor existed five to eight million years ago, shortly after the species divided. One of these ultimately evolved into gorillas and chimps, and the other evolved into early human ancestors, called hominids.

monkey experiment

A rhesus monkey chooses between images on a touch-screen computer monitor.  In a new study, monkeys were asked to select five photographs in a particular order.  Credit:UCLA
A rhesus monkey chooses between images on a touch-screen computer monitor. In a new study, monkeys were asked to select five photographs in a particular order. Credit:UCLA

Monkeys look and think much like humans

Obviously, the way a monkey looks closely resembles the way humans look. (except for all that hair of course!) Like humans, monkeys benefit largely from being actively involved in learning instead of having information just presented to them. "The advantage of active learning appears to be a fundamental property of memory in humans alike."said Nate Kornell, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in psychology and lead author of the following study.

Kornell conducted a study when he was a student at Columbia University. Two rhesus macaque monkeys learned to put five pictures in a certain order. The pictures were displayed on a touch-screen computer monitor, like those found on ATM machines. When the monkeys pressed a correct picture, a boarder appeared around it. When either monkey pressed all five pictures in the correct order, he received food as a reward. The chance of guessing all five accurately is less than one percent.

Each monkey learned to order at least eighteen separate series of pictures. They included such items as a fish, a human face, a building, a football field,and a flame from a match. They had three days of training before being tested. In some of the training trials, they had to figure out the correct order themselves. In other trials, they had the option of getting help by pushing an icon on the screen that made the border of the correct picture to flash. They were rewarded with candy each time they correctly completed the task without help. When they completed the task with hints from the help icon, they received a less desirable food pellet. After three days the rhesus macaque monkeys were tested without the help of the icon. "Both monkeys did much better if they had studied without a hint than if they had studied with a hint," Kornell said. They did a lot better on the first three days when they had help, but on test day, it completely reversed. When they studied with the hint, there is no evidence they learned anything about the list. They learned the lists when they didn't get the help. The findings are closely related to findings in humans. Recalling answers from memory enhances long-term learning. Humans think much like monkeys and other primates. Why? We mimic, copy, and imitate what we see. This is a common thing all primates do, including us.

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    • profile image

      harrison 4 years ago

      It is very interesting!

    • Dmian profile image

      Dmian 7 years ago

      Interesting, i saw once a study with monkeys and humans, they both had to see a screen with numbers appearing inside circles they had to remember the order in which the numbers appeared, and if i remember correctly one of the monkeys answered correctly more times, than the humans did. this of course not being about smarts more about short-term memory but anyways, nice hub.

    • BeBrown profile image

      BeBrown 7 years ago

      Interesting read - I have to disagree but interesting read nevertheless.

    • magnoliazz profile image

      magnoliazz 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Well written and interesting hub!

      The people who study DNA claim that we all evolved from one black woman who lived in Africa.

      I think that is really amazing!