The baffling behaviour of teenagers may seem a unique aspect of human adolescence.
ut the strops and bravado could be a throwback to our primate ancestors, with youngsters reverting to their “inner chimp” during the tumultuous period of puberty, scientists believe.
A study of young chimpanzees has found they exhibit the same risk-taking behaviour and moodiness as human teens.
“Adolescent chimpanzees are in some sense facing the same psychological tempest that human teens are,” said lead researcher Dr Alexandra Rosati, an associate professor of psychology and anthropology at the University of Michigan.
“Our findings show that several key features of human adolescent psychology are also seen in our closest primate relatives.”
Chimpanzees can live to be 50 and experience adolescence between around eight to 15.
Just like humans, chimps show rapid changes in hormone levels during adolescence, start forming new bonds with peers, show increases in aggression and compete for social status.
To find out if other aspects of their behaviour mirrored that of human teens, researchers played two games with 40 wild-born chimps at a sanctuary in the Republic of Congo.
In the first test, the chimps were asked to choose between a box containing peanuts, or take a chance on a box which might have either cucumber or banana in it. The chimpanzees could play it safe and choose the peanuts, or gamble on winning a delicious banana, at the risk of ending up with an unappetising piece of cucumber.
During several rounds of the test, adolescent chimpanzees were 55pc more likely than adults to take the risky option. It suggests that just like human teens, adolescent chimps will also seek out the riskier option if there is a greater reward on offer.
In the second test, the chimps’ “delayed gratification” skills were tested by allowing them to receive one banana slice immediately or wait for one minute to receive three slices.
Human teens tend to be more impulsive than adults so they would be more likely to take the immediate reward.
Although the young chimps delayed their reward about the same amount as adults, they threw more tantrums during the one-minute delay than adult chimpanzees.
It suggests that, unlike humans, adolescent chimps are no more impulsive than adults, but they deal with losing as badly as human teens.
The research was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
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