Written by Alice, MadLab volunteer

Cafe Scientifique Manchester is a group which come to discuss and explore different ideas and opinions about the latest news in Science and Technology. They are part of a global network of Science enthusiasts who are committed to promoting public engagement with science and encourage anyone to come along. This month at Madlab, Keith Jensen delivered his talk about why people are nice and nasty to each other, going back to the evolution of chimpanzee’s right through to the humans we have become today.

Keith Jensen has adapted games developed by economists, for children and chimpanzees, which tests how they share, use and punish others, and how different situations in life brings out our better or worse sides. He started off by explaining what research he has looked at and why he became interested in this field. He has been working with animals and specifically chimpanzees to see how our behaviour compares to them, and if we have changed the way we cooperate with each other.


He showed the group a few videos of his chimps using the cooperation games that he has adapted and simplified for them to use. One involved the chimps having to use teamwork to get food from a tray that was behind glass, the first chimp had to decide how to share (or not share) the food for both of them, and the second chimp could see the offer he presented, and decide whether to accept or reject the offer, if he accepts then they both get the amount of food that was received, and if he rejects, neither of them get any food. So if a chimp doesn’t want to share, and takes everything for himself, then the second chimp would probably not be very happy with that, and then reject the offer, and the first chimp’s food would be taken away. This tested whether the monkeys were willing to share fairly and to see if they can work together to get what they want.

He tried this ‘game’ with the audience at the group, using sweets, and as you can guess, the sweets were shared out, in a relatively fair way. Keith showed another video of how he used the same ‘game’ with children, and got similar results. For the second half of the group, Keith was asked some questions for which he had very interesting and funny answers to share to the group.

Keith had many fascinating and thought provoking ideas, and the results from his experiments have raised even more questions and queries about the way we work in this modern world where we are always socially connected, 24/7. They meet on the last Thursday of every month at 7:30pm at MadLab.

Click this link to find out more about them: http://www.cafescientifique.manchester.ac.uk/

Click to look at their Madlab meet up page: https://madlab.org.uk/groups/cafe-scientifique/