Monkey See, Humans Do

By Scott LaFee

July 29, 2020 4 min read

Humans and monkeys share about 93 percent of their DNA. We think a lot alike as well.

In experiments involving indigenous Tsimane people in Bolivia's Amazon rainforest, American adults and preschoolers, and macaque monkeys, researchers found that, in varying degrees, all participants displayed "recursion" abilities, that is, a cognitive process of arranging words, phrases or symbols in a way that helps convey complex commands, sentiments or ideas.

"For the first time, we have strong empirical evidence about patterns of thinking that come naturally to probably all humans and, to a lesser extent, non-human primates," said Steven Piantadosi, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

The researchers suggested that with sufficient training, monkeys can learn to represent a recursive process, indicating humans aren't as unique as we recursively insist.

Body of Knowledge

When we touch something, we send a message to our brain at 124 miles per hour.

Get Me That, Stat!

Handgun owners have a risk of suicide that is nine times higher than non-owners, according to a published study of 26 million people in California.


1 in 10: New mothers who are uninsured (based on latest data 2015-2018).

1 in 3: Women surveyed who said they wanted to delay pregnancy or have fewer children because of the pandemic.

Sources: Urban Institute; Guttmacher Institute

Stories for the Waiting Room

A new study suggests that public campaigns to encourage smokers to quit are more effective when the message includes information about how smoking harms smokers' children, i.e. the effects of secondhand smoke. Campaigns that focus on the adverse financial impact of tobacco use, whether on the smoker or family, proved least effective.

Doc Talk

Osculate: to kiss, from the Latin "os" for mouth.

Phobia of the Week

Ephebiphobia: fear of teenagers.

Best Medicine

Two fellows are fishing.

First fisherman: "Joe, I thought you had to work today."

Second fisherman: "I decided to take time off. I had used up all my sick days, so I called in dead."


"Middle age is when you begin to exchange your emotions for symptoms." — French statesman Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929)

Medical History

This week in 1927, the first iron lung (electric respirator) was installed at Bellevue hospital in New York during a polio epidemic. The first iron lung was developed at Harvard University by Phillip Drinker and Louis Agassiz Shaw. It used two vacuum cleaners. The iron lung is a negative pressure machine that surrounds the patient's body except for the head and alternates a negative atmospheric pressure with the ambient one, resulting in rhythmic expansion of the chest cage, creating inhalation and exhalation.

Med School

Q: Why do women always seem colder than men?

A: This is, of course, more of a general observation than a truism, but there may be some validity to it. Women tend to have a higher percentage of body fat and conserve more heat around the core than men, which helps keep vital organs pleasantly insulated but possibly at the expense of extremities. And when your hands and feet feel cold, the rest of your body does, too. Some research also suggests that women have a lower threshold for cold than men. When exposed to the same freezing temperature, the blood vessels in women's fingers constrict more than men's.


Headstone in St. Elmo Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee: "I came here without being consulted and I leave without my consent."

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: KELLEPICS at Pixabay

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