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Last updated at 11:25 BST, Friday, 31 May 2013

Chimpanzee tantrums

Summary

31 May 2013

Scientists in the US have found that chimpanzees become upset when they make the wrong decisions. Researchers from Duke University designed decision-making games for chimpanzees and bonobos, where the animals could win edible treats. Those that lost appeared to lose their temper.

Reporter:

Victoria Gill

Chimpanzee

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Report

The Duke University team designed two games - one to test patience and the other assessing risk-taking.

The second was a sort of gambling game where the forty chimps and bonobos the team studied were offered a choice between a safe option - six peanuts hidden under a bowl - or a risky option. The second bowl concealed either a slice of cucumber or a much tastier piece of banana, and that prize wasn't revealed until the ape had made its choice.

When one chimp, named Timi, gambled and got the cucumber, he threw what looked and sounded very much like a tantrum. Although some were more stoic than Timi, many of the animals involved showed an emotional response to a bad decision - anxiously scratching themselves or calling out.

The study, the scientists say, suggests that emotions like frustration and regret - so fundamental to our own decisions - are not uniquely human, but are an important and ancient part of ape society.

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Vocabulary

patience

the ability to keep calm

risk-taking

taking a chance; making a decision where the result might be good or bad

a safe option

a choice which is not risky

concealed

hidden

revealed

shown

a tantrum

a period of anger without control

frustration

feeling annoyed

regret

feeling of sadness about a decision you have made

fundamental

important

uniquely

only