Gaming insights

Monkeys prove to be effective gamblers

Written by Ben Blaschke

Researchers from the UK’s University of Cambridge have found that a particular breed of monkey is able to weigh the risks between two gambling options and decide when a risk is worth betting on.

In a recent paper called Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers describe how they put two Rhesus monkeys through a series of tests in which they were shown two objects and asked to choose between them in order to receive a treat. The element of risk was then added by including various elements that would reduce the chance of making the right choice but offer a bigger reward when correct. A safe bet was also presented from time to time.


In repeated tests, the monkeys consistently avoided options where the odds were stacked against them – so consistently in fact that their behavior could ultimately be predicted using economic decision theory.

The team reported that the monkeys displayed an ability to make choices based on different gambling scenarios whereby they weighed up all the options in order to earn themselves the best reward.