A while back we reported on some research that showed monkeys and young children demonstrate the effects of cognitive dissonance in the same way that adult humans do. In particular, monkeys who were forced to make an arbitrary choice between equally appealing M&M sweets, subsequently showed reduced preference towards the colour of M&M that they’d earlier rejected. The research shows how arbitrary decisions affect our future preferences, as we struggle to create psychological consistency out of our own actions.
Now courtesy of Bloggingheads.tv you can watch lead researcher Laurie Santos of Yale University discuss this work with philosopher Josh Knobe of UNC-Chapel Hill. In the discussion, embedded below, Santos also describes some planned work to see if monkeys are less prone to the effects of cognitive dissonance when they are feeling better about themselves, as has been observed in humans. How do they plan to make the monkeys feel better about themselves? See if you can guess before finding the answer in the clip.
Santos also describes her research showing that monkeys, like humans, appear to be loss averse. Loss aversion is our tendency to suffer more pain from losses than reward from gains, and is one of the many biases in human decision making discovered by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Again check out the clip to discover how creative Santos and her colleagues have been in their studies of this phenomenon in monkeys. It has to be said, it’s great to see a scientist like Laurie Santos taking the time to explain her work in an engaging format like this – thanks Laurie!