Drunken Monkeys?

This item belongs more properly to the history of the psyche, than to the history of psychology. Nevertheless, it is amusing. From an article in yesterday’s New York Times:

A large variety of creatures consume alcohol in the wild, ranging from bumble-bees to elephants. Hooch finds its way into their diets via the fermenting fruit, sap and nectar of various plants, and many exhibit signs of inebriation after they’ve enjoyed a good feed. Their weakness for the substance au naturel is understandable: ethanol is a rich food, with 75 percent more calories than refined sugar, and its distinctive aroma makes it easy to locate. This natural thirst has been exploited by man since the dawn of history. Aristotle noted that wild monkeys were caught by setting out jars of palm wine — the creatures would drink, then pass out, leaving them easy prey. The same method of trapping was still in use in the 19th century and commented on by Darwin in the opening chapter of “The Descent of Man,” when drawing similarities between humanity and the rest of creation. Monkeys could get drunk like men. They also got hangovers: “On the following morning they were very cross and dismal; they held their aching heads with both hands, and wore a most pitiable expression: when beer or wine was offered them, they turned away with disgust, but relished the juice of lemons.”

So, the next time your students show up to class hung over (or worse), remember that it is entirely natural, right up and down the phylogenetic scale.

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About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.

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