04 December 2007

Chimps 1 – Humans 0

Chimps Outperform Humans at Memory Task

3 December 2007
New Scientist
Rowan Hooper

Young chimps can beat adult humans in a task involving remembering numbers, reveals a new study. It is the first time chimps – and young ones, at that – have outperformed humans at a cognitive task.

And the finding may add weight to a theory about the evolution of language in humans, say the researchers.

Three adult female chimps, their three 5-year-old offspring, and university student volunteers were tested on their ability to memorise the numbers 1 to 9 appearing at random locations on a touchscreen monitor.

The chimps had previously been taught the ascending order of the numbers. Using an ability akin to photographic memory, the young chimps were able to memorise the location of the numerals with better accuracy than humans performing the same task.

During the test, the numerals appeared on the screen for 650, 430 or 210 milliseconds, and were then replaced by blank white squares.