Baboons quite capable of reasoning

September 25th, 2011 - 12:55 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 25 (IANS) Monkeys are capable of making analogies and may be capable of thinking, a new study has shown.

A cat takes care of a kitten and a bird feeds fledglings, so it is evident that both involve a mother and its offspring, says common logic. Researchers believed that this type of analogical reasoning was impossible without language and that it was restricted to humans or at best, great apes that had been taught a language.

But the latest study by Joël Fagot of the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive (CNRS / Universite de Provence) France and Roger Thompson of the Franklin & Marshall College, challenges this idea.

The two researchers carried out their experiment on a group of baboons of variable ages. They were shown two geometric shapes on a touch screen - for example - two squares, the journal Psychological Science reports.

After they touched one of these shapes, two other pairs of shapes appeared on the screen, such as a triangle and a star for the first pair and two identical ovals for the second pair, according to a CNRS statement.

The animals which touched the pair representing the same relation (of identity or difference) as the initial pair (here, the two ovals), were to be rewarded. In other words, the baboon had to detect relations between relations, which is the definition of analogy.

After an intensive learning period covering several thousand tests, six baboons correctly performed the task, thus demonstrating an ability to resolve analogy problems.

Researchers suspended the task for nearly one year before proposing it again to the baboons.

The animals relearnt the task much faster than during the initial training, which shows that they remembered the situation. This work therefore shows that language is not necessary to analogy.

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