Helping each other to get the banana

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I was watching a program about ‘being human’ on SBS the other day. They showed an experiment with chimpanzees cooperating with each other to get a reward – if they have to work together to get access to bananas, then they do, easily. The same applies to little human children.

The monkeys had more difficulty when there was unequal access to the bananas though. If they worked together to get a banana,  but for some reason only one of them succeeded and the other missed out, then the ‘successful’ one didn’t even consider giving some banana to the one that didn’t get any.

A similar experiment was done with small children working together to get rubber balls. This time one child got more than the other, even though they did equal work, and had to work together to get anything at all. Although human children aren’t generally good at sharing when they are 2 or 3 (the age of the kids in the tests), when they worked together to get the result, the one who got more pretty much always shared with the one who got less. It was really sweet to see them doing this in the program.

I wonder what this says about how we operate in community endeavours. How important is it to do things together, so that we can share the rewards? How often have we seen people sharing willingly when they are working together on something. Folk participate at different levels of intensity at a working bee for example, but we all get to share the sausage sizzle together at the end. We share our skills so that we can get a good outcome, and we get lots of pleasure from doing so. Doing things collaboratively, even though it is sometimes easier to do tasks alone, has byproducts of fulfillment that you can’t get by yourself.

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