Hominoid Psychology Research Group

Ape Economic Decision Making

Economic Preferences

Economists, biologists and psychologist have long studied decision making preferences in humans and how these preferences interact with cognitive skill such as memory. Theory and experiments suggest that humans may show levels of patience and preferences for risk not observed in other species. Our species ability to save for the future, avoid investing in a losing cause, or engaging in conflict are all heavily influenced by such preferences. Taken, together with our species unusual memory abilities we have developed global economies, international treaties and more. However, we know almost little about the biological basis of the preferences that drive the economic and political decisions our species makes.

We are comparing the decision making preferences of bonobos, chimpanzees and humans to test (1) If human decision making preferences are shared with our closest living relatives and (2) to understand the biological basis of these preferences and how they interact with mechanisms for how we form memories. Understanding the evolution of our decision-making preferences will help inform why humans make the economic and political decisions they do helping to improve our decision making.