Swerve Or Die: An Interesting Car Crashing Experiment on Monkeys

Khryss | Published 2017-12-02 17:13

In movies that involve so much cars and men ego (ehem, I'm talking about you, The Fast and The Furious), there's this usual scene wherein two men inside different cars head toward each other with the intention to head-on crash.

But sometimes, things don't always go to plan, and one driver just decides to swerve, not bump its beautiful car to the other, and save his dear life. Such person now claims it's chicken throne which basically means he's coward. And believe it or not, this scenario has started as a game.

Now, for an experiment, this not-so-weird-but-somewhat-weird game are played by our other mammalian relative: the monkeys. This is to see how they deduce other individuals' mental states, or what's called the "theory of mind".

Researchers placed pairs of macaques sitting across from each other at a table-top computer screen wherein they use joysticks to control their cars. The monkeys are then given rewards (fruit juice) if they didn’t swerve. Researchers later on noticed that the monkeys actually often looked at their partner's eyes. “For theory of mind, it helps to be able to follow the gaze,” says Wei Song Ong, of the University of Pennsylvania.

This is because those who were about to give up tended to look in the direction where they would swerve, and their partners would exploit that. “If one monkey sees the other is looking at the swerve target, we think they are attributing intention to that,” says Wei Song Ong, of the University of Pennsylvania. The experiment also shows that the more submissive macaques were, the more likely they are to swerve. “Hierarchy really matters. It’s a bit like James Dean,” says Ong.


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