If you pay peanuts you might get monkeys – but what if one monkey is better paid than another?

Alf has never been happy knowing that many MPs do much less work than he does for the same weekly pay and expenses.

This has him supporting the idea we should be paid for what we do, and if we do more than some other MPs, then we should be rewarded accordingly.

With the right incentive, he would arrange to meet many more constituents and discuss their problems down at the Eketahuna Club.

In line with this, he supports good teachers being paid more than bad teachers.

This doesn’t necessarily mean he believes in equal pay for equal work, because a quality thing comes into considerations.

It’s more a matter of his thinking he deserves more pay than others.

But he is having second thoughts about the principle of equal pay for equal work after having his attention drawn to the video above.

The video is presented by the legendary primatologist, Frans de Waal.

It shows what happens when two capuchin monkeys are given unequal pay for equal work.


One of them is paid in cucumbers, the other in grapes.

Check out the video to see which one thinks he has got a bum deal.

As de Waal says, basically it’s the Wall Street protest you are seeing here.

A commentator at Freakonomics (here) writes –

It is amazing to see how the principles of behavioural economics spill so easily into the animal kingdom.

Dr Frans de Waal, by the way, is is a biologist and primatologist known for his work on the behaviour and social intelligence of primates.

A potted biography can be found here.

His first book, Chimpanzee Politics (1982), compared the schmoozing and scheming of chimpanzees involved in power struggles with that of human politicians. Ever since, de Waal has drawn parallels between primate and human behavior, from peacemaking and morality to culture. His scientific work has been published in hundreds of technical articles in journals such as Science, Nature, Scientific American, and outlets specialized in animal behavior. His popular books – translated into fifteen languages – have made him one of the world’s most visible primatologists.

Freakonomics also suggests those interested in this stuff might wish to consider the work of Keith Chen. He has done some economic research with capuchins, teaching them how to use money to buy different commodities.

He studied their preferences when the prices for all goods were the same, and how they reacted to a price shock when the price of their favourite food was doubled.

Chen noted how the monkeys quickly came to to appreciate the value of coins and accordingly conducted experiments to establish their readiness to steal and gamble.

Oh, and – would you believe? – by happenstance he observed one of the males giving a coin to a female.

Nope. Not altruism.

The female reciprocated by allowing him to shag her.

You can get a feel for Chen’s work from an article (here) in the New York Times.

The article includes a brief mention of the coins-for-sex incident.

Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

So next time you feel you’re being unfairly compensated, or feel the broader sting of income inequality…

Yep. You will be behaving just like a monkey that’s been given a cucumber while the monkey next door is paid in grapes.

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