Young chimps better than humans in remembering numerals

December 4th, 2007 - 1:31 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, December 4 (ANI): Young chimpanzees overshadowed human adults in remembering numerals in a recent study, published in the journal Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press.

There are still many people, including many biologists, who believe that humans are superior to chimpanzees in all cognitive functions, said Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University.

No one can imagine that chimpanzeesyoung chimpanzees at the age of fivehave a better performance in a memory task than humans. Here we show for the first time that young chimpanzees have an extraordinary working memory capability for numerical recollectionbetter than that of human adults tested in the same apparatus, following the same procedure, he added.

The researcher said that some data from the extensive studies on chimpanzee memory conducted so far suggested that it might be superior to the memory of humans in some circumstances.

During the study, three pairs of mother and infant chimpanzees were compared with university students in a memory task of numerals. All chimpanzees had already learnt the ascending order of Arabic numerals from one to nine.

One of the mothers, named Ai, was the first chimpanzee who learned to use Arabic numerals to label sets of real-life objects with the appropriate number.

In another experiment, the chimps or humans were briefly presented with various numerals from one to nine on a touch-screen monitor. The numbers were then replaced with blank squares, and the test subject had to remember which numeral appeared in which location and touch the squares in the appropriate order.

The researchers found that young chimpanzees could grasp many numerals at a glance, without any change in their performance when the duration for which the numbers remained on the screen was varied. They said that the performance of the three young chimpanzees was better than that of their mothers in general.

The young chimpanzees were also faster than adult humans in their response.

For human subjects, the percentage of accuracy in their response worsened as the hold duration was shortened.

Matsuzawa said the chimps memory ability was reminiscent of eidetic imagery, a special ability to retain a detailed and accurate image of a complex scene or pattern.

According to him, such a photographic memory is known to be present in some normal human children, and then the ability declines with the age, he added.

The researchers believe that the young chimps newfound ability to top humans in the numerical memory task is just a part of the very flexible intelligence of young chimpanzees. (ANI)

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