Don't I Know You from Somewhere?

Learning about group dynamics is always interesting, especially for the small groups like those that we interact with daily. A key prerequisite is that we have to know who is in our ‘gang’ and who isn’t, so learning to “never forget a face” is an early occupation.  Schell et al in Animal Cognition (1) looked at the ability of Barbary macaques to pick out bad guys from mug shots. My first unworthy thought from my snobbish primate stance was that one macaque looks very much like another. Not correct of course. A well brought up macaque can tell the good, the bad and the ugly at a glance.

The youngsters in the troops being interrogated were not very discriminating though, but they did like looking at the pictures. Their prejudices increase with age and their moms and dads got much more interested in looking at pictures of strangers than their snaps of their friends. Know your enemy has clearly been well understood by the time they reach their majority.

The authors report on a rather touching piece of work carried out by Hoesch fifty years ago with baboons, or one in particular, who had been trained to look after a herd of goats. This chappie could recognize the individual goats. However, he was paricularly adept as a goatherd because he could recognize the bleat of a separated kid and return it to its mother. That would be way above my paygrade, and suggests that maybe our industry barons should rethink their push towards robotics as there are a lot of potential workers out there who would be happy to work for peanuts.


One Response so far.

  1. uh oh, I can just see cooperate america enslaving those macaques to look after their goats

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