Neurophilosophy

Naughty Gloria

In this wonderful passage from King Solomon’s Ring, Konrad Lorenz, who, together with Nikolaas Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch founded the science of ethology, describes some of the behaviours of his pet capuchin monkey Gloria:

She occupied a large, roomy cage in my study. When I was at home and able to look after her, she was allowed to run freely about the room. When I went out, I shut her in the cage, where she became exceedingly bored and exerted all her talents to escape as quickly as possible. One evening, when I returned home after a longer absence and turned the knob of the light switch, all remained dark as before. But Gloria’s giggle, issuing not from the cage but from the curtain rod, left no doubt as to the cause and origin of the light defect. When I returned with a lighted candle, I encountered the following scene: Gloria had removed the heavy bronze bedside lamp from its stand, dragged it straight across the room (unhappily without pulling the plug out of the wall), heaved it up on to the highest of my aquaria, and, as with a battering ram, bashed in the glass lid so that the lamp sank in the water. Hence the short circuit! Next, or perhaps later, Gloria had unlocked my bookcase – an amazing achievement considering the minute size of the key – removed volumes 2 and 4 of Strumpel’s textbook of medicine and carried them to the aquarium stand where she tore them to shreds and stuffed them into the tank. On the floor lay the empty book covers, but not one piece of paper. In the tank sat sad sea-anemones, their tentacles full of paper….