Monkeys chill out with touch screen computers, says University of Portsmouth study

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USING touch screen computers has helped a group of monkeys relax, a new study by University of Portsmouth scientists shows.

Not only does the opportunity to use touch screens interest and challenge the animals, it also keeps the dominant members of the group busy, which mirrors life in the wild and relieves social tension.

The study took place with a social group of Sulawesi crested macaques at Marwell Wildlife. The scientists taught them to operate computer touch screens so they can conduct studies to understand their cognition and communication.

Scientists found that providing cognitive challenges for the macaques, using touch screen computers, has improved the group’s cohesion and reduced tensions while increasing friendly behaviours.

Lead scientist on the study Jamie Whitehouse, from the university’s department of psychology, said: ‘Having one individual leave the group mimics conditions in the wild when it’s common for a lone macaque to break off and return later.

‘At Marwell it’s usually the dominant macaques leaving the group to use the touch screens, which leaves the others to enjoy some time without the top ranking animals. We can use our understanding of their social behaviour to work out whether taking part in the studies is affecting their welfare.’