Duke tested the marketing appeal of sex and power on monkeys, and PETA isn’t happy

Duke tested the marketing appeal of sex and power on monkeys, and PETA isn’t happy

RALEIGH, NC (Aaron Moody, News & Observer) - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals isn't pleased with the way monkeys were treated during a Duke University study on the power of sex and social status in advertising.

PETA claims researchers kept 10 rhesus macaques thirsty during the course of experiments detailed in the study by researchers from Duke and Stanford universities, the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Pennsylvania.

The study, published Feb. 20 in the journal PLOS ONE, showed that the monkeys preferred brands "repeatedly paired with images of macaque genitals and high status monkeys." The monkeys participated by using touch-screen devices.

"Our results endorse the hypothesis that the power of sex and status in advertising emerges from the spontaneous engagement of shared, ancestral neural circuits that prioritize information useful for navigating the social environment," the study says.

In a similar study in 2005, former Duke neurobiology professor Michael Platt and other researchers showed that male monkeys declined water for the chance to view the genitalia of female monkeys and the faces of monkeys high in status.

The latest study included a line indicating "outstanding care of the monkeys." But PETA disagrees.

In an email to Duke University President Vincent Price on March 2, PETA called for an investigation into Duke Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee's approval of Platt's experiments on monkeys.

"In order to compel (the monkeys) to perform this absurd task, experimenters first deprived them of sufficient water so that they would be thirsty and therefore desperate for the small drops of fruit juice that they received as a 'reward' for their "cooperation," PETA said in a statement. "This experiment … concluded that associations with sex and power sell products, something we've known is true for humans for decades. And human volunteers could easily have been used instead."

PETA is also asking that the University of Pennsylvania end Platt's advertising experiments on monkeys and call for his resignation. The group also plans to contact the companies whose logos were used in the experiments, including Pizza Hut, Nike and Acura.