Thursday, December 27, 2007

Monkeys and college students: similar in non-verbal math

This work from Cantlon and Brannon suggests that humans and nonhuman primates share a cognitive system for nonverbal arithmetic, suggesting an evolutionary link in their cognitive abilities., full text in PLoS Biology, here is the abstract:

Adult humans possess mathematical abilities that are unmatched by any other member of the animal kingdom. Yet, there is increasing evidence that the ability to enumerate sets of objects nonverbally is a capacity that humans share with other animal species. That is, like humans, nonhuman animals possess the ability to estimate and compare numerical values nonverbally. We asked whether humans and nonhuman animals also share a capacity for nonverbal arithmetic. We tested monkeys and college students on a nonverbal arithmetic task in which they had to add the numerical values of two sets of dots together and choose a stimulus from two options that reflected the arithmetic sum of the two sets. Our results indicate that monkeys perform approximate mental addition in a manner that is remarkably similar to the performance of the college students. These findings support the argument that humans and nonhuman primates share a cognitive system for nonverbal arithmetic, which likely reflects an evolutionary link in their cognitive abilities.

2 comments:

nordsieck said...

What would be really interesting would be to compare the mathematical abilities of monkeys and members of the Piranha tribe

Anonymous said...

That's great, but you'll be accused of racism. Why not compare the language abilities of the adult Pirhana to human two-year olds. I understand neither have words for colors and don't quite get 1+1.

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