Chimps are Fast

There’s an interesting video of a chimpanzee that is quite adept at touching numbers on a screen in ascending order very quickly.  The kicker is that the chimp only sees the numbers for a brief second, and then they are blanked out and the chimp must remember the numbers and their order so that it may correctly press the numbers in the correct order.  Apparently, this is supposed to show us that chimps have better memory than humans, but does it really?  What this shows, to me, is that chimps are able to be trained to do specialized tasks, such as this one.  So what?  We’ve known this for years.  Do the researchers really think that humans could not do this given similar amounts of training as the chimps?  By the end of the video, I was practically doing it myself.

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5 responses to “Chimps are Fast

  1. Oleg Tchernyshyov

    Do the researchers really think that humans could not do this given similar amounts of training as the chimps? By the end of the video, I was practically doing it myself.

    Apparently, the answer is no. According to a Physorg article,

    Even with six months of training, three students failed to catch up to the three young chimps, Matsuzawa said in an e-mail.

    He thinks two factors gave his chimps the edge. For one thing, he believes human ancestors gave up much of this skill over evolutionary time to make room in the brain for gaining language abilities.

    The other factor is the youth of Ayumu and his peers. The memory for images that’s needed for the tests resembles a skill found in children, but which dissipates with age. In fact, the young chimps performed better than older chimps in the new study. (Ayumu’s mom did even worse than the college students).

    So the next logical step, Lonsdorf said, is to fix up Ayumu with some real competition on these tests: little kids.

  2. professorsmith

    And yet, they don’t report how long the chimps have been training…

    It’s still the same thing, the chimps are highly trained at doing this one skill. It says nothing about their cognitive abilities.

  3. Pretty neat. But I’d really be impressed if the chimp could design or program the computer it’s using.

  4. “For one thing, he believes human ancestors gave up much of this skill over evolutionary time to make room in the brain for gaining language abilities.”

    What he believes and what can be demonstrated are two different things.

  5. professorsmith

    Very incisive comments Mike.

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