Although psychological damage can take days, weeks, months, and maybe even years after a traumatic event for symptoms to show, where as physical damage is immediate, psychological trauma is just as serious. Scientists have found that non-human primates are the perfect subjects to study what happens to a community after a traumatic event.
Scientists found that a species of monkeys called Macaques were the ideal subjects to do their research on because although they shared five percent less DNA with humans than chimpanzees do (93% to 98%), macaques have less protection laws and regulation and are easier to handle. Also, like humans, macaques have advanced problem solving skills and opposable thumbs and are usually able to learn to handle tools. For this reasoning, about 65% of funded non-human primate research goes to macaques.
In 1938, a man named Clarence Carpenter brought 409 macaques over to Cayo Santiago, (an island southeast of Puerto Rico) from India to begin his study. He wanted to research what happened with parasites, disease, in a community and study social structure. His goal was for the island to be more than just a monkey farm, but the monkeys were never truly independent. They always relied on humans for food and water because they drank from the rainwater collection system and the island has very few food sources.
Skipping ahead to 2017, another scientist, Daniel Phillips, goes to Cayo Santiago to study the macaques. He tattoos ID numbers on their chests and inner thighs in order to keep track of them and keeps track of them in a chart with a list of their ID numbers a description of their behavior, and the time of the day, in order to continue Carpenter’s research but in a more organized way. In September, hurricane Maria hits the Cayo Santiago hard. Phillip’s house is ruined. He notices that his fathers dementia begins to worsen at a much faster rate than it was before the storm, so much so, that he didn’t even remember the hurricane had happened.
Many studies have been done on trauma and how it affects the brain and people’s lives after a traumatic event occurs. Scientists have found that children who are traumatized in their early childhoods are at greater risk of depression and suicide attempts. Also, various studies found that traumatized animals show an increase in aggressive behavior and the human equivalent to this would be a higher likelihood of criminality and incarceration.
After the hurricane, scientists kept a close watch on the Macaques and how they had reacted to the recent events. They noticed that the monkeys had increased their social networks and began forming more meaningful relationships. They also became more tolerant of each other. Scientists noticed that intra-troop violence began to taper off since the monkeys were competing for things that were of low supply (i.e. edible leaves, leaves that will supply shade).
As she reflected back on the event, scientist Angelina Ruiz Lambides remembers a similar camaraderie happening between the people when things got bad after the hurricane hit saying: “people became nicer. They’d pause at lightless intersections they’d wait, and wave each other through. Police on patrol post-Maria girded for a crime wave that never came”
So what really happens after a traumatic event? Does trauma tear us apart, make us aggressive, detached, isolated, and increase crime rates? Or could it bring us together? Does it let us see that we are all fighting the same fight? Maybe it affects every person in a completely different ways.
Ms. Carrigan's Psych Class
We have been reading articles about psychological studies to inform the way we live our lives. Please explore, and we hope you learn a bit about the psychology in your life!