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How Monkeys React to Price Tags? Obviously Not Like You

Our contemporary world has us thinking that the more expensive articles are the ones endowed with the better quality. Our minds have become wired to the very idea that expensive items are more valuable. Psychological studies have shown this very bias that we have developed over time. However, monkeys seem to be immune to the effect of price tags.
monkey with money

Humans tend to associate price with value: the more expensive amenity is the more valuable, according to the thinking trends. Studies have shown that it is relatively easy to demonstrate how people think that higher prices imply better quality. To illustrate this concept, a study made volunteers drink the same wine, once from a bottle labelled with an expensive price and a second type from a cheap-labelled bottle. The results showed that they preferred the taste of the former wine. How easily can we be fooled by price tags! While humans might display this characteristic, monkeys have been shown to refuse to take to such mindsets in another study.

The monkeys that were made the subjects of the new research were trained to have rewards in exchange of tokens. Some rewards were cheap while others were expensive; the former would be ‘sold’ at fewer tokens.

The monkeys did grasp the concept of price and the differences thereof. However, they did not fall into the trap that has ensnared humans. They did not link higher prices with better quality.

The lead author, Laurie Santos, affirmed the following:

We know that capuchin monkeys share a number of our own economic biases. Our previous work has shown that monkeys are loss-averse, irrational when it comes to dealing with risk, and even prone to rationalising their own decisions, just like humans. But this is one of the first domains we’ve tested in which monkeys show more rational behaviour than humans do. For humans, higher price tags often signal that other people like a particular good. Our richer social experiences with markets might be the very thing that leads us – and not monkeys – astray in this case.”


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