Sharp-eyed PETA intern Elijah spotted a couple of recent news stories that show (once again) how much we have in common with our primate cousins—monkeys, in this case.
First came word that cotton-top tamarin monkeys can “acquire an affixation rule that shares important properties with our inflectional morphology.” Gotta love scientific jargon, huh? Put a bit more simply, they can recognize when a word doesn’t have the suffix or prefix they expect to hear. So if you’re striking up a conversation with a monkey, watch your language because you’re not the only one who knows what “caging” and “killing” means.
Then we learned that rhesus monkeys use the same mechanism—”configural perception” (well, natch)—as humans do to recognize faces. Turns out that monkeys also experience the “Thatcher Effect,” which, yes, is named after the former British prime minister. If you don’t know what the Thatcher Effect is—I didn’t—here’s more about it. (If you don’t know who Margaret Thatcher is, I can’t help you.)
So let’s see. Monkeys can recognize Margaret Thatcher upside down. They know prefixes and suffixes, can speak in sentences (and with accents), and can even do math. Heck, they have a stronger skill set than some people I’ve worked with—although not at PETA, of course. But they’re definitely overqualified to be caged and tortured in laboratories at Columbia University or Covance. What really blows my mind is how experimenters can discover all of this and still torture and kill monkeys. Maybe we should be conducting tests on experimenters’ empathy instead.
Written by Jeff Mackey