Racism Roots Identified in Monkeys?

Researchers from Yale University studied rhesus monkey behavior in relation to images of known monkeys (insiders) and unknown monkeys (outsiders). They concluded that they had found the first evidence that a nonhuman species shows greater attentiveness and wariness towards outsiders than those living in their own social units. Their research also showed when certain objects were associated with the outsider images, the monkeys became more attentive and weary of those objects also.

While this information may appear odd at first glance, it makes more sense when you learn some context. Their study was designed in light of the Implicit Association Test, which was developed to test human racism. It is a computer-based test which shows images of European Americans and African-Americans to subjects, and measures their tendency to associate the words good or bad with those races. The quick association of the word bad with African American faces or good with European American faces measured by the test, has been believed to show the biases of the test takers. This human-oriented test was the conceptual basis for the rhesus monkey study.

In their study abstract they said, “We discovered that macaques, like humans, automatically evaluate ingroup members positively and outgroup members negatively. These field studies represent the first controlled experiments to examine the presence of intergroup attitudes in a nonhuman species. As such, these studies suggest that the architecture of the mind that enables the formation of these biases may be rooted in phylogenetically ancient mechanisms. (Source: sciencedirect.com)

So it could be that discrimination based on visual information is an automatic response based in the brain, and addressing it realistically must acknowledge it not only as a cultural situation, or learned behavior. If the research represents accurately the mental experience of both the rhesus monkeys and is applicable to humans, would we be open-minded, or even brave enough to accept racism as potentially an inherent human mental experience and practice?

Image Credit: Thomas Schoch

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Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W4 years ago

Almost human!

Melinda K.
Past Member 6 years ago

Im sure different tribes of monkeys are aggressive to each other due to territory, I doubt its racism.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

very interesting

caterina caligiuri

Very interesting...

Sumit jamadar
Sumit jamadar6 years ago


Bob Stuart
Bob Stuart6 years ago

Of course racism and xenophobia are inherent tendencies of the mind. Overcoming them with logic and information is a maintenance issue, not a problem in meme eradication. Our biggest advantage over the Neanderthals may be our ability to overcome suspicion enough to establish regional trade, but if we were not still careful of strangers, wandering psychopaths would take all we have.

Amy Hughes
Amy Hughes6 years ago

There are so many ways the results of the original study (from the video) can be skewed that it surprises me that it has been applied to Rhesus monkeys.

Lubna Ibrahim
Lubna twal6 years ago

i dont agree with this article at all ..

there is only one race .. human race .. it is not a matter of differnce in color .. we all have the same color but different shades , that's all ..

this is just cultural differences and not a racial one .. each ethnicity has its own cultures even when living in the same neighborhood , it has nothing to do with being good or bad .. maybe that's why when presented with this experiment ,these people experienced a sudden shock and appeared to have an ingrained prejudice in their subconscience , however this may not be the case.. it could actually mean a mere difference in culture which was confused with the wrong perception of being racist .. and by posting this article it could actually send mixed messages to some and in effect emphasizes and encourages the need to justify the act of prejudice practiced by some against certain groups of people .. if we raise two children from different colors and ethnicity , will they develop a kind of racism against one another..the superior/inferior complexities !!?

this is just wrong and shouldnt be generalized in any way !

Bette M.
Bette M6 years ago

Roxanne Harris wrote:
Being protective of our family and friends is natural, not being prejudice against someone who has a different skin color... Let's be serious about this study"....

Roxanne, I agree to a point. However I beg to differ with the skin color bit. Skin color may play a small part in so called racism. However, there is much to be said for the difference in cultural behavior/customs as well as anything else in any one group as opposed to another.

I've stated in many posts over the years skin color is not the issue. Blacks have made it the central issue more than any other minority group & that is an opinion......Not a fact!!
All of us are given/inherit a color if we are conceived & born. We also, are handed down behavioral traits deliberately or inadvertenately.And, that in and of itself may lead to wanting to shy away from other who are perceived as different.
It really is more about protecting ones own along with any other variables.

Plant & protect Danny's trees for life in 2011............

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/racism-roots-identified-in-monkeys.html#ixzz1JnKlsG9E

Roxanne Harris
Roxanne Harris6 years ago

This study only proves that monkeys are weary of strangers, not that they are racist... Being protective of our family and friends is natural, not being prejudice against someone who has a different skin color... Let's be serious about this study....