Study: Apes Bond Better after Watching a Movie Together

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. phenomenon / fɪˈnɒm əˌnɒn / (n) – a situation or an event

    Experts are still investigating the cause of this strange phenomenon.

  2. identical / aɪˈdɛn tɪ kəl / (adj) – describing something that is exactly the same as another thing

    I couldn’t tell the two dogs apart because they looked identical.

  3. evolutionary / ˌɛv əˈlu ʃəˌnɛr i / (adj) – describing the development of living organisms from earlier forms

    Some scientists continue to conduct research on the evolutionary origin of humans.

  4. shed light on (something) / ʃɛd laɪt ɒn / (idiom) – to explain something

    The study’s results shed light on human behavior.

  5. downside / ˈdaʊnˌsaɪd / (n) – a disadvantage

    One of the project’s downsides is that it involves a lot of costs.


Read the text below.

A new study suggests that, just like humans, apes develop a sense of bonding and closeness after having a shared experience.

The study suggests that apes like chimpanzees and bonobos, or endangered relatives of chimpanzees, behave the same way as humans do in terms of social bonding. According to the study, these animals bonded better with those they shared an experience with. Experts used to believe that this kind of behavior was exclusive to humans.

Researchers from Duke University conducted two experiments to examine the phenomenon. They made the apes watch a movie and used eye trackers to check whether the apes were watching. Afterward, the researchers studied the animals’ interactions.

In the first experiment, the chimpanzees and bonobos were paired with an unfamiliar human partner. The human partner either watched the movie with the apes or did something else while the animals were watching. In the second experiment, the researchers paired the apes with each other.

The results of the two experiments were identical. The apes approached the human faster if the latter watched the movie with them. Likewise, the apes who watched together showed more signs of social bonding, such as staying together and grooming or playing with each other.

The researchers believe that the findings offer new insights about the evolutionary roots of human connections through shared experiences.

In addition, the results shed light on the downside of having fewer shared experiences. One of the researchers cited the use of social media as an example. He explained that although social media allow people to share moments online, the quality of shared experience these online platforms offer is not as deep as that of watching TV or sharing a meal together.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• In your opinion, is it reliable to study animal behavior in order to better understand human behavior? Why or why not?
• Do you think scientists should conduct the same experiments on other animals (e.g. dogs)? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you agree that social media reduce the quality of humans’ shared experiences? Why or why not?
• Aside from those mentioned in the article (i.e., watching TV and sharing a meal), what activities can increase people’s shared experiences? Discuss.