Monkeys And Apes Know Right From Wrong
Scientists have discovered that the furry swingers can tell right from wrong, offer selfless help and empathise with fellow animals in times of trouble.
They even appear to have consciences and the ability to feel a sense of obligation.
The research, carried out at
Such findings are likely to anger fundamental religious groups who maintain that morality is a God-given quality which sets humans apart from other animals.
But according to the scientists, the evidence is conclusive.
'There is enough evidence for the following of social rules to agree that some of the stepping stones towards human morality can be found in other animals,' Frans de Waal, professor of psychology at
A series of experiences were carried out on monkeys and apes to see if they understood the notion of fairness, Mr de Waal revealed in papers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this weekend.
The animals were asked to perform a set of simple tasks and rewards of food or affection were offered to them at random.
Mr De Waal found the primates had a sense of fairness as they objected strongly when others were rewarded more for carrying out the same task as themselves, often sulking and refusing to take part any further.
Another study looked for evidence of altruism in chimps and found they were often willing to help others even when there was no reward offered for doing so.
'Chimpanzees spontaneously help both humans and each other in carefully controlled tests,' said Mr de Waal, adding that other researchers have found similar qualities in capuchin monkeys which also show 'spontaneous prosocial tendencies'.
The Latin American primates are keen to share food and gifts with other monkeys for the pleasure of giving, he said.
'Everything else being equal, they prefer to reward a companion together with themselves, rather than just themselves,' he said. 'The research suggests that giving is self-rewarding for monkeys'.