What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Politics

Imagine a Society That Chooses Leaders Based on Past Behavior, Not Promises in TV Ads

Whenever I find myself in a contentious academic meeting or I see clips of Congress trying to pass (or kill) a bill, I am reminded of capuchin monkeys.

Don’t get me wrong—I respect my colleagues, and don’t consider politicians to be sub-human. It’s just that the monkeys I have devoted so much of my life to studying exhibit extraordinarily sophisticated political strategies that mirror the social machinations so common in human workplaces where alliances need to be formed and conflicts erupt.

A quarter century ago, when I started my quest …