Monkeying Business

Play Fortnite, don’t play with me!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

There are oodles of studies about the power of play to teach kids social skills. But what about when adults play with each other? Do adults get more out of play than just having fun?

Norberto Asensio of the University of the Basque Country in Spain and team wondered. They turned to our monkey cousins for clues.

The researchers observed seven groups of howler monkeys, timing how long adults spent playing with others. They also recorded gender, group size, and time spent searching for food.

Results? The longer the group spent looking for fruit together, the more the adults played with each other. Researchers believe the monkeys play when competing for food so their rivals will chill out. Just like kids, adult monkeys can use play to solve conflicts!

So crack a joke at work! Be a monkey’s uncle! There might be a banana in it for you!


Asensio, N., Zandonà, E., Dunn, J. C., & Cristóbal-Azkarate, J. (2022). Socioecological correlates of social play in adult mantled howler monkeys. Animal Behaviour.