Chimp economics, back in the day16 Apr 2006
Another piece of Google archaeology: this 1947 piece from Natural History:
By this time Moos and Bimba were definitely money-mad. When permitted to operated the Work Machine as often as they wished, these two apes amassed great piles of poker-chip wealth.
Oh, yes, it's an article about early psychology experiments on chimpanzee economics!
The most touching part is this:
It might have been anticipated that the introduction of money into chimpanzee society was bound to make trouble sooner or later. Perhaps it is too much to say that the profit motive could wreck ape economy. And as far as the scientific report goes, there is no absolute proof that the Yale Colony succumbed to an irreversible process of moral decay as a result of these experiments. Nevertheless, it is just as well that they came to an end when they did, for certain ominous trends were rapidly becoming apparent.
Despotism and cruelty are not unknown among man's nearest living relatives, but usually they take simple and straightforward forms such as wife-beating or commandeering of the food supply. New and subtle kinds of treachery are possible when wealth is involved.
When Bula and Bimba were living in the same cage, a large supply of white poker chips was offered to the two females. Bula promptly assumed ownership of nearly every one, and Bimba was left with a very small hoard. She protested vocally and with gestures, whining and holding out an empty hand. Like a rich man tossing a coin to a beggar, Bula impatiently selected one chip from her huge pile and dropped it negligently in Bimba's palm. When the vending machine was wheeled up to their cage, both animals rushed to spend their windfalls. Bula roughly shouldered Bimba away and took complete possession of the machine. The menu that day was slices of unpeeled oranges. Bula calmly bought and devoured one slice after another, and when Bimba started to complain, Bula handed her the peels!
It's a pretty entertaining read -- not because it seems hopelessly out of date, but surprisingly, because it seems like it could have been written last year! Current experiments like these in primates are more sophisticated in subtle ways, but at the level of description for a popular article they look almost indistinguishable.
I suppose that should be depressing. But then, I'm used to seeing every new fossil described as a "missing link", a chestnut that's been with us since the 1870's, so finding a 60-year-old psychology article that looks current doesn't surprise me!