The decisions people make are often irrational and can lead to bad economic choices. Scientists are currently turning their attention to the animal kingdom. They want to find out if gorillas and orangutans have the same cognitive judgment errors when they have to make decisions.

The team conducted two experiments on orangutans and gorillas at the zoo in Basel, Switzerland. In the first experiment, the animals were presented with two cups.

One cup had an option known to the animal to be safe. The other was a risky option, which could have involved a greater reward than the safe option or no reward, according to IFLScience.

A difficult decision to make

The first experiment, started after the training period, in which the animals had to learn from each trial that the safe reward was always presented in the safe cup, while the risky reward could be presented in the risky cup. The animals had to learn, through feedback, the probability and possible gain of a higher reward in the risky cup.

In the second experiment, the safe reward was presented under a safe cup. However, the risky reward was always presented below one of the risky cups. This was designed to see if the animals could understand the relationship between the number of risky cups and the chance of winning a reward if the animal chose a risky cup.

If you don’t risk, you don’t win!

After analysis, the team found that the orangutans and gorillas behaved rationally, making decisions based on what they stood to gain and the likelihood that the decisions would lead to a large reward. The animals were also more likely to choose the risky option as the reward increased.

Orangutans were much more likely than gorillas to choose the risky cup in the first experiment, the team found. The researchers conclude that both gorillas and orangutans were more risk averse in the second experiment, whereas in the first experiment the animals were risk neutral. Future work will attempt to account for judgment errors for this change between experiments.

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