According to a study from the University of Rennes in France, scientists found monkeys pay more attention to older members of their group rather than to younger members. Scientists now believe listening to your elders may have a biological basis — probably like knowing when to use the bathroom or why men have to handle all television remotes.
As my son watched his photo flash across the television screen in honor of his upcoming 10th birthday, I tried to imagine what kind of response it might garner.
After all, I had painstakingly sought out a perfect photo, featuring him at the beach, wearing a big smile, T-shirt and swim trunks.
I was sure this would be one of those proud dad moments when he would throw his arms around me in a big hug and thank me, profusely.
So, I waited.
Several news and weather segments passed as he continued staring blankly at the television screen, and I felt compelled to provide a little encouragement.
“That was a pretty neat birthday wish, wasn’t it?” I asked.
I could see the question roll around in his mind for a little while before he replied, “Yeah. But next year, let’s not do that.”
Right then, I realized he had turned a corner in his maturity where these types of moments no longer were appreciated, welcomed and should never again appear in public venues.
Minutes later, he reiterated that fact to his mom at the breakfast table.
The funny thing was it had been his idea in the first place and all I had done was remark it was a fine idea and one that should make him proud.
As I tried to absorb how a small token of prestige in my mind could translate to embarrassment and humility to an adolescent, I was reminded how scientists are uncovering how certain mannerisms and sounds translate to communication among monkeys.
According to a study from the University of Rennes in France that was published in the Royal Society journal, Biology Letters, scientists found monkeys pay more attention to older members of their group rather than to younger members.
Scientists now believe listening to your elders may have a biological basis — probably like knowing when to use the bathroom or why men have to handle all television remotes.
The research was based on interaction of a group of Campbell’s Monkeys, which are native to Africa. From more than 800 calls between nine monkeys in captivity, scientists found the older the caller, the more responses they received from the rest of the group.
I’ve surveyed similar instances in humans during social occasions, although I wouldn’t consider myself a scientist, but instead, an informed, yet casual, observer.
In many social settings, more responses from a group seemed to stem from the elderly person being hard of hearing or dozing off in mid-sentence, which caused everyone to repeat statements sometimes two, three or four times. My wife might argue a similar opinion based on her dinner conversations with me, especially when I reply with a statement so far from the point of her question that I might as well be at a different table.
Of course, I don’t believe the monkey test group was only three years apart in age, like my wife and me.
But, back to my son and his embarrassment over being on a news segment that also featured babies and toddlers who were having birthdays.
Obviously, if we were monkeys, my lengthy explanation about how his photo appeared in thousands of homes across Kansas would have elicited some kind of response, just like in the study group.
And, in a way, it did.
However, I’m no monkey, so his grunt didn’t have the same effect as it might to one of the group elders.
Ken Knepper is publisher of The Newton Kansan. He can be contacted at email@example.com.