Monkeys prefer variety for variety's sake

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Washington, March 16 (ANI): A research showed that capuchin monkeys opted for variety when given a choice between spending a token to get their absolute favourite food or spending it to have a choice from a buffet of options.

In fact, they even ate a less-preferred food from that buffet when the favourite food was on it.

The finding suggests that capuchin monkeys choose things they don't even like as well just for the sake of variety.

Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University, said that the choices made by these captive-bred monkeys seem to show some innate desire to seek variety.

In a series of experiments, Ariely conducted with colleagues at the Instituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione in Rome, the eight monkeys first had to be taught that the abstract tokens, such as poker chips, plastic cylinders and metal nuts, represented different kinds of choice.

With training, the tokens were associated with being able to buy one piece of the most-preferred food, or being able to buy one piece from an assortment of foods that included the most-preferred food.

Once they had the hang of it, the monkeys as a group chose to use the variety tokens and not the "single-food-tokens."

Moreover, once they chose the variety tokens the monkeys also didn't always take the most-preferred food when it was offered as part of the variety assortment.

What this means is that they prefer variety for variety sake and are willing to eat food they like less to satisfy their desire for variety.

The implications of this simple experiment shed some light on consumer behaviour, Ariely said.

The work appears online in Behavioural Processes. (ANI)

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