Monkeys are attracted to gambling in a similar way to humans

Can only humans develop an inclination to gamble? No, Italian scientists have now found out in a recently published study. A similar tendency to gamble was found in various monkeys as in humans. The reason for this is the fact that genes from chimpanzees and humans are largely identical.

Monkeys are attracted to gambling

The current study was published by the Italian Institute for Cognitive Sciences and Technologies (CNR). Thematically, it was not only about risk awareness, but also about the economic awareness of monkeys. The interesting study was first published recently in the Italian press.

Genes from humans and chimpanzees are almost identical

In a somewhat older study by the US Research Center for Human Genetics, the scientists came to the conclusion that the genes of chimpanzees and humans are about 96% identical. This at least allows the conclusion that there is some overlap in the propensity to gamble among humans and animals.

According to more recent reports, the genetic match between humans and monkeys is even higher, depending on the monkey species. As an American natural history museum found out just last year, the genetic match between chimpanzees and humans is an impressive 98.8%. The value is slightly lower for orangutans (96.9%) and gorillas (98.6%).

The Italian authors Alexandra Rosati and Francesca De Petrillo have now found out that some species of monkey are as attracted to gambling as humans. These include chimpanzees, macaques, capuchin monkeys and gorillas in particular. However, there are, in some cases, considerable differences between the various species of monkeys in terms of willingness to take risks and the basic approach to gambling.

Chimpanzees are becoming more willing to take risks among conspecifics

The editor of the Italian study, Elsa Addessi, pointed out that depending on the species of monkey, different behaviors were observed when gambling. The chimpanzee, for example, tends to take a higher risk of gambling once it knows that other chimpanzees are in close proximity. It was also found that chimpanzees are more willing to take risks if they are awarded at least a “consolation prize” in the event of a defeat.

According to the study results, capuchin monkeys proceeded significantly more analytically. It was found here that they carry out a very precise risk assessment. This means that they tend to weigh the potential gain against the impending loss. Overall, the capuchin monkeys are much more cautious when it comes to risk-taking.

Another approach was found in another species of monkey, the macaque. Above all, they demonstrated an increased willingness to take risks when the potential loss is particularly great. For example, the scientists have found that wild macaques in Bali are slowly exchanging objects stolen by tourists for something to eat.

No gender differences

It is also interesting to note that the scientists could not determine any behavioral differences with regard to the sex of the various monkeys. This means that in monkeys – unlike humans – there are probably no gender-specific differences in willingness to take risks or in the propensity to gamble.

The Italian study concludes that it is more cultural differences that are the reason why the propensity to gamble is not equally pronounced among men and women. In any case, there is no evidence that the origin of the gender differences is genetic.


The aim of the scientists was to gain detailed knowledge about cognitive mechanisms in economic decisions made by humans. In order to understand at what point in evolutionary history the ideas of gambling and economy found their origin, the monkey was chosen as the human comparison object. Given the high level of genetic similarity between humans and apes, it wasn’t too much of a surprise that the apes’ gambling awareness is similar to that of us humans. Nevertheless, the differences in behavior and the different willingness to take risks that could be observed in the individual monkey species are interesting.

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