Steven Pinker and Jane Goodall love gooey treats. According to research assistant Fiery A. Cushman ’03, “Marshmallows are bar-none their favorite things on earth.”
Pinker and Goodall live in Harvard’s Cognitive Evolution Laboratory along with about 25 other monkeys named after prominent scientists and researchers. The monkeys—both endangered cotton-top tamarins and common marmosets—live a peaceful co-existence under the direction of Professor of Psychology Marc D. Hauser.
Hauser, who founded the lab on the tenth floor of William James Hall, started the tradition of bestowing illustrious names on the primates. According to Cushman, this can lead to ridiculous comments. “Without thinking, you’ll say, ‘Steve Pinker is the dumbest monkey. He eats shit all day,’” Cushman says. However, he adds that Laurie Santos—not Pinker—is the dumbest monkey. Ironic, as Cushman believes Santos may be “the smartest human.”
Dan Weiss, while not the smartest monkey, may be the most innovative. According to Cushman, when monkeys Dan Weiss and Jay Kralick didn’t have the romantic chemistry that researchers had anticipated, Weiss began engaging in acts of self fellatio. “It’s possible that this was the first sighting of a tamarin self fellating,” says Cushman.
Apparently, marshmallows can’t satisfy every craving.