Like older humans, monkeys also get more selective in their social interactions with age, according to a new study.
Humans and primates have lots of things in common such as they can recognize faces, laugh out loud and eat a lot when battling stress.
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Now, new research adds one more thing to the list. Researchers have found that monkeys also get picky about their social circle with age. As monkeys get older, they tend to become more selective about their companions, indicating limited social interaction with age is not unique to humans anymore. Generally, humans hang out less and narrow their social interaction as they age.
“An important psychological theory suggests that humans become more socially selective when they know that their remaining life time is limited, such as in old age," said lead author Laura Almeling of the German Primate Center in Göttingen, Germany.
“We assume that monkeys are not aware of their own limited future time. Therefore, if they show similar motivational changes in old age, their selectivity cannot be attributed to their knowledge about a limited future time. Instead, we should entertain the possibility that similar physiological changes in aging monkeys and humans contribute to increased selectivity.”
For the study, researchers kept in the enclosure a large sample of more than 100 Barbary macaques – a primate species native to Europe – and test them through a series of experiments to evaluate their behavior and interests. Researchers supplied them with unique objects such as animal toys and tube containing food and observed their responses. As expected, monkey’s interest in exploring new things decreased dramatically with age. The only thing older monkeys still found attractive was the food containing object.
When it comes to social interaction, researchers found that older monkeys were only interested in selective companions or those who were socially important individuals. However, monkeys of other age groups continued to interact with aging monkeys despite their avoidance.
“With increasing age, the monkeys became more selective in their social interactions. They had fewer 'friends' and invested less in social interactions. Interestingly, however, they were still interested in what was going on in their social world,” said Almeling.
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The change in social behavior is likely due to a loss of motor skills with the time. The findings offer an evolutionary perspective on why older humans interact limited and also represent that our social interests may have deeper roots.