Take Language Away from a Human, They End Up Looking just like Monkeys

This is not a joke.  Researchers at Duke University refined a study conducted by Japanese scientists earlier this month that found that young chimpanzees were better at memory games than human adults.  The Duke study was the first that examined whether or not non-human primates could make explict decisions that were based on mathematical calculations.

The study:

Smart Monkey…pitted the monkey math team of Boxer and Feinstein — two female macaque monkeys named for U.S. senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California — with 14 Duke University students.

“We had them do math on the fly,” Cantlon said.

The task was to mentally add two sets of dots that were briefly flashed on a computer screen. The teams were asked to pick the correct answer from two choices on a different screen.

The humans were not allowed to count or verbalize as they worked, and they were told to answer as quickly as possible. Both monkeys and humans typically answered within 1 second.

And both groups fared about the same.

The chief researcher, Jessica Cantlon, said that their work was not designed to show up Duke students, but to learn more about where human thinking comes from.

Steenhuysen, Julie. ” Monkeys and college students as good at mental math.” Yahoo! News 18 Dec 2007 21 Dec 2007 <http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071218/lf_nm_life/chimps_math_dc;_ylt= ArxogtuC2vJLH3VhfZAaRMEDW7oF>.

Shouse, Dan. “Monkey Disdain.” Dan Shouse’s Photostream. 22 June 2006. 21 Dec 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/danshouse/172499184/>.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.