At least one species of primate underperforms when the heat is on
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At least one species of primate underperforms when the heat is on

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Enlarge / Wales’ forward Gareth Bale misses a penalty kick during the UEFA EURO 2020. (credit: VALENTYN OGIRENKO / Getty Images)

The world of sports is full of people who choke under pressure in very visible and humiliating ways. But as it turns out, humans aren’t the only species capable of underperforming when the stakes are high, new research shows.

A team of scientists recently published a paper suggesting that at least three rhesus monkeys will, in fact, choke under pressure. The authors told Ars that this lapse in performance is almost certainly true of all rhesus monkeys—and quite possibly other primates as well.

There are several reasons you might expect a person—or a monkey—would fold under pressure. The researchers list social incluence, fear of losses, and over-excitement as some examples. So they decided to check if the size of a reward, which would increase the pressure, impacted a monkey’s performance. When the reward was particularly large, the monkeys performed the task less well compared to more reasonably sized prizes.

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