Apparently, not only humans can be nice to others simply for that warm, fuzzy feeling we get inside. Until now, most scientists believed that other animals were incapable of altruism. Sure, primates often groom each other and some animals share food, but those actions could be attributed to selfish motives like aiding select individuals (the animal equivalent of a spoils system). However, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology reported that chimpanzees responded with spontaneous altruism toward other animals and humans in a recent batch of experiments.
A chimpanzee in the wild
One experiment caged a number of free-ranging chimpanzees with a door locked by a chain on the other side of the room. On the other side of the room, scientists placed one chip and some food. The scientists wanted to see if the one chimpanzee would unlock the door and let the other, unrelated chimps get at the food. 3/4 times the chimpanzee with the food would, in fact, open the door. This experiment proved that the chimpanzees are willing to help others with no expectation of an added reward.
In another experiment, a human (with whom the chimp never interacted) pretended to be struggling to reach for a stick. A chimpanzee would exert itself and climb up a tall poll in order to reach the stick to bring it to the human about 75% of the time. This, it turns out, is as often as a 18-month-old child would give a pen to a struggling person.
These experiments show, first off, that chimpanzees are able to perform altruistic acts. Also, in terms of evolution, this suggests that chimps and humans received the altruistic inclinations from some common ancestor before human culture developed.
People always say that humans act in morally acceptable ways because of culture and society. Without these two variables, humans would still be living in a selfish state of dog eat dog and chaos. These experiments prove that in our very nature, we can behave well or poorly to others. It is purely our choice.
P.S. Yes, I know that chimpanzees are apes and not monkeys, but “ape see, ape do,” sounds stupid.