Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Primates pay for pornographic pictures

Our fellow primates not only engage in prostitution, a 2005 experiment found that they also like to look at pornographic pictures.

As reported by Nature News:

The researchers gave captive male rhesus macaques two options: a drink of cherry juice, or a different-sized shot of juice and the chance to look at one of a range of pictures of their troop members for just over half a second.

By varying the amounts of juice, the team worked out how much the monkeys valued each image. "Monkeys are basically juice experts; they're very sensitive to the differences," says team member Robert Deaner.

Monkeys would take a juice cut to look at powerful males' faces or the perineum of a female, Deaner and his colleagues report in Current Biology.

.... the juice-to-picture exchange rate was highest for images of female rears. "Virtually all monkeys will give up juice to see female hindquarters," Deaner says of his male subjects. "They really value the images."

Researcher Robert Deaner claims that this isn't really pornography, and his university emphasizes what the study might do to help us understand autism.

Yeah, sure. They're our relatives; it's natural to try to put a good spin on it.

But even Deaner allows a connection to some of our less admirable habits.

The monkey study might even help to explain humans' fascination with gossip magazines, Deaner suggests. The urge to keep tabs on sexy, powerful people may stem from our tribal past, when the actions of the group's movers and shakers would have influenced our own lives. "Hollywood doesn't affect our lives at all, but people still feel they get some cultural capital from knowing about it," he says.

Watching Monkey Porn by Flickr user Tracy Lee

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