Studying Lemurs May Give Insight into Why People Do What They Do
By working with a ring-tailed lemur named Matilda at the Brevard Zoo, Darby Proctor, assistant professor of psychology at Florida Tech, hopes to gain insight into why humans engage in behavior that seemingly goes against self interest such as gambling or inequity aversion, which is the act of rejecting more of something in the name of fairness to others. The pair were recently filmed by Discovery Canada for the science and tech program, Daily Planet.
Proctor studies research related to the evolutionary basis of human behavior. Studying how nonhuman primates such as Matilda make choices, especially when they seem counter-productive, can allow scientists to help explain why humans engage in similar ways. The work Proctor is currently doing with Matilda is making sure the lemur understands quantities enough in order to study these complex behaviors. Proctor is training Matilda to use a touch screen where she will hopefully learn to associate one object on the screen with a higher food reward than another object on the screen. This will test her ability to discriminate between quantities and visual objects.
The segment will air this fall.