Good boy, Pete!

Here’s a hardworking male spider monkey carrying a baby and doing dishes. Hey, Pete, you can come watch my kids and do chores at my house anytime.

The story behind this video can be found here. The video maker notes:

Pete had been observing me washing the pots for a few days before he took over and began completely and perfectly imitating me!

The monkey on his back is a baby female called Pea. She is not his daughter. Pete had an unfortunate overbite which made him a particularly ugly monkey; he had very little success with the ladies and therefore looked after babies a lot.

As we discussed in class, culture is learned behavior. Here a monkey has learned to wash dishes by watching someone else do it first. Chances are this is how you learned to wash dishes too, by watching your parents or your older siblings until you eventually tried it out for yourself. Over time you practiced the skill and eventually you had learned the behavior – exactly what Pete the monkey has done.

Does this mean that monkeys have culture? In a word, yes. Perhaps it is not as sophisticated as human culture, but we would have to still consider it a kind of culture.


About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
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One Response to Good boy, Pete!

  1. lumosliz says:

    This is awesome! I better not show it to my mom, though. She’ll complain that a monkey can wash dishes but I won’t…

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