GRE Reading Comprehension

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Source: 1997

Investigators of monkeys' social behavior have always been struck by monkeys' aggressive potential and the con- sequent need for social control of their aggressive behavior. Studies directed at describing aggressive behavior and the situations that elicit it, as well as the social mechanisms that control it, were therefore among the first investigations of monkeys' social behavior.

Investigators initially believed that monkeys would compete for any resource in the environment: hungry monkeys would fight over food, thirsty monkeys would fight over water, and, in general, any time more than one monkey in a group sought the same incentive simulta neously, a dispute would result and would be resolved through some form of aggression. However, the motivating force of competition for incentives began to be doubted when experiments like Southwick's on the reduction of space or the withholding of food failed to produce more than temporary increases in intragroup aggression. Indeed, food deprivation not only failed to increase aggression but in some cases actually resulted in decreased frequencies of aggression.

Studies of animals in the wild under conditions of extreme food deprivation likewise revealed that starving monkeys devoted almost all available energy to foraging, with little energy remaining for aggressive interaction. Furthermore, accumulating evidence from later studies of a variety of primate groups, for example, the study con- ducted by Bernstein, indicates that one of the most potent stimuli for eliciting aggression is the introduction of an intruder into an organized group. Such introductions result in far more serious aggression than that produced in any other types of experiments contrived to produce com- petition.

These studies of intruders suggest that adult members of the same species introduced to one another for the first time show considerable hostility because, in the absence of a social order, one must be established to control interanimal relationships. When a single new animal is introduced into an existing social organization, the newcomer meets even more serious aggression. Whereas in the first case aggression establishes a social order, in the second case resident animals mob the intruder, thereby initially excluding the new animal from the existing social unit. The simultaneous introduction of several animals lessens the effect, if only because the group divides its attention among the multiple targets. If, however, the several animals introduced to a group constitute their own social unit, each group may fight the opposing group as a unit; but, again, no individual is subjected to mass attack, and the very cohesion of the groups precludes prolonged individual combat. The submission of the defeated group, rather than unleashing unchecked aggression on the part of the victorious group, reduces both the intensity and frequency of further attack. Monkey groups therefor see to be organized primarily to maintain their established social order rather than to engage in hostilities per se.

Question List: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The author of the passage is primarily concerned with

  • A advancing a new methodology for changing a monkey's social behavior
  • B comparing the methods of several research studies on aggression among monkeys
  • C explaining the reasons for researchers' interest in monkeys' social behavior
  • D discussing the development of investigators' theories about aggression among monkeys
  • E examining the effects of competition on monkeys' social behavior

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