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What Can We Learn From Monkeys Playing Video Games?

by Joe Juba on May 06, 2011 at 08:18 AM

Japanese researchers have studied how monkeys play video games in hopes of learning something about human self-awareness. Yeah, for real.

The researchers,  Takaaki Kaneko and Masaki Tomonaga, used a test designed for schizophrenic patients in order to determine whether or not chimpanzees are aware of their control over their own actions. This was tested by having the chimps use a trackball to hit on-screen targets with a cursor.

"At the beginning of training, we had no idea how to train chimpanzees to use this device," Kaneko says. "Sometimes, we lay completely down on the floor to make the chimpanzees pay attention to the trackball."

Once they got the kinks ironed out, the chimps did pretty well. You can read more about the results over at Game Politics, but ultimately it boils down to this: The crude video game demonstrated that chimpanzees have a similar perception of self-agency to humans. As long as the next step isn't turning monkeys into trained war machines like in The Lawnmower Man, I'm fine with those results.

(Source: Game Politics)