Missy Misleading

For my study on deception, I show Missy where a tasty banana is hidden in her outdoor enclosure; then I release her outside with an ignorant competitor, Rita. Today, Missy was not motivated at all to participate, and I was becoming frustrated since she does this often. I know from previous experience that working with Missy requires patience, and is worth the wait—she always does something clever to deceive Rita.

After nearly giving up my attempts to gain her attention, she finally watched as I placed the banana underneath a large red plastic ring. Once the video cameras were recording, my colleague Matt opened the door to release Rita, then Missy. Rita walked right past the hiding place to search in a hanging tire, where she had seen Missy find a treat back in November. Missy warily approached the red ring, and as she bent down to lift the ring for her reward, Rita turned around and brusquely marched towards Missy. Acting quickly, Missy sat down directly on top of the ring, preventing Rita from looking under it.


After a few moments, Missy walked off towards their climbing structure, making eye contact with Rita, who was following closely. Rita has learned over several months of testing that Missy has privileged knowledge about the banana. Rita, who is dominant to Missy, has developed a pattern of following her so that she may steal the banana from her.

Rita followed Missy onto the structure, but when Missy gave no further indication that she was searching for a hidden food, Rita climbed down and walked away. Missy then returned to the red ring, first checking that Rita was not watching her, and picked up the ring to find the banana. At that moment, Rita turned around to see she had been duped!

— Katie Hall, visiting student, University of St. Andrews