Thursday, July 17, 2014

Do Monkeys Believe in Luck?

Luck is probably one of the most universal beliefs that we humans have. People all over the world believe in luck and they even have items and rituals that they believe bring more of it to their lives. Even in the most random situations, people have a tendency to see a losing or a winning streak. Good or bad luck can govern our behaviors, but does the same also go to our more primitive and wild cousins?
Recent studies have shown that monkeys actually share our belief in good luck, specifically on a lucky streak. University of Rochester’s Benjamin Hayden studies the systematic error made in decision making among primates using a simple computer game which was designed to entertain monkeys. Fortunately for the researchers, the monkeys found the game rather fun. Rhesus monkeys were used for the experiment and they had the simple task of choosing left or right. When they made a correct guess, they were given a reward.

The researchers programmed the game in three patterns, two of which followed a clear pattern for the direction to go which the third one was totally set to random. When a clear pattern existed, they would quickly guess the right sequence. However when the patterns go random, they still persisted to make their choices like they anticipated a streak. In cases where the rewards were given in random, they still continued to favor one of the sides. 
This phenomenon, commonly known as the hot-hand bias, is one of the most studied concepts when it comes to gambling addiction. The results of the research could be used as a biological basis for the behavior.

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