Human economic decision-making sometimes appears to be irrational. Partly, this is due to cognitive biases that can lead to suboptimal economic choices and context-dependent riskpreferences. A pertinent question is whether such biases are part of our evolutionary heritage or whether they are culturally acquired. To address this, we tested gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and orang-utans (Pongo abelii) with two risk-assessment experiments that differed in how risk was presented. For both experiments, we found that subjects increased their preferences for the risky options as their expected gains increased, showing basic understanding of reward contingencies and rational decision-making. However, we also found consistent differences in risk proneness between the two experiments, as subjects were risk-neutral in one experiment and risk-prone in the other. We concluded that gorillas and orang-utans are economically rational but that their decisions can interact with preexisting cognitive biases which modulates their risk-preference in context-dependent ways, explaining the variability of their risk-preference in previous literature.
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