It’s a cheesy idea in many ways: practice compassion. pay it forward. Do unto others. It seems nice, but in a society where trust has been broken and kindness can be seen as weakness – whether that is a prison or school or work or a city – it can be hard to practice.
However, if there IS an immediate reward – a points system that helps people keep score of their kindness and gives them some immediate positive return – then it makes more sense for people to engage and feed into the compassion system.
Similar programs like dog training and tutoring provide a similar immediate benefit – the trainer is rewarded for training others.
Of course there are long-term personal benefits – less mental stress, larger social network, etc. – but humans typically work for the “right now” and being able to demonstrate the “right now” benefits can be pretty powerful.
It also shows the power of gamification to teach other complex, complicated concepts.
Bonobos find it easier to share than chimps do, although young chimps do just as well as bonobos of all ages. It was speculated to be because bonobos don’t have to worry about having more or less food like chimps do.
At the same time, chimps will adopt orphaned kiddos, according to a new study that found 18 cases of orphaned chimps being adopted in the wild.
Speaking of more and less, researchers based at the Institute of Neurobiology at the University of Tubingen in Germany set out to see whether rhesus monkeys could learn and flexibly apply the greater-than and less-than rule. They tested the monkeys with groups of both ordered and random dots, many of which were novel combinations to ensure that the subjects couldn’t have simply memorized them. The monkeys were cued into applying either the greater-than or less-than rule by the amount of time that elapsed between being shown the first and second group of dots.
“The monkeys immediately generalized the greater than and less than rules to numerositiesthat had not been presented previously,” the two researchers, Sylvia Bongard and Andreas Nieder, wrote. “This indicates that they understood this basic mathematical principle irrespective of the absolute numerical value of the sample displays.” In other words: “They had learned an abstract mathematical principle.”