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Finally, chimpanzees actually do teach us something …


Which we learn way too easily on our own …

In “Homo Politicus: Why Washington Never Learns” (Forbes.com, April 2, 2012) analyst Ralph Benko reminds us,

From Konrad Lorenz’s On Aggression, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. 46:

Some time ago, collaborators of Robert M. Yerkes made the extraordinarily interesting observation that chimpanzees, animals well known to be capable of learning by imitation, copy only higher-ranking members of their species. From a group of these apes, a low-ranking individual was taken and taught to remove bananas from a specially constructed feeding apparatus by very complicated manipulations. When this ape, together with his feeding apparatus, was brought back to the group, the higher-ranking animals tried to take away the bananas which he had acquired for himself, but none of them thought of watching their inferior at work and learning something from him. Then the higher-ranking chimpanzee was removed and taught to use the apparatus in the same way, and when he was put back in the group the other members watched him with great interest and soon learned to imitate him.

Benko, for some reason, thinks that a certain large political bureaucracy functions the same way. Do wonders never cease?

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