Moral behaviour and inequality

moral and unequal pay

We tend to think that the sense of morality and equality are only human traits. However, Psychology has proven that this trait is shared among many different animal species.


It is of particular interest the work of Frans de Wall a biologist and primatologist known for his work on the behavior and social intelligence of primates. We can see in his experiments that monkeys among other animals share a sense of morality. 


For instance, if two monkeys execute the same task and are rewarded unequally, then the monkey who was rewarded poorly will complain and even protest. It is something better seen than explained so I would like to share one of Frans de Wall‘s conferences in TED that illustrates what I’m talking about here.


Here is the short version (for people with less time or who just want a quick peek at the experiment)



The two monkeys are rewarded with pieces of cucumber (the poor reward) and grapes (the better reward).


I think that moral behavior is based upon a sense of fairness / reciprocity and empathy / compassion. What I like about this experiment is that it allows to focus only on the fairness and reciprocity component of moral behaviour because the way they reward the monkeys is not something that they can share.


Of course, humans may react differently in case of inequality because we have “deeper and more complex” reactions, or rationalized reactions.… Read the rest of “Moral behaviour and inequality”