Monkeys match students in maths quiz

Monkeys performed about as well as university students at mental addition, US researchers said in a finding that suggests nonverbal math skills are not unique to humans.

The research from Duke University follows the finding by Japanese researchers earlier this month that young chimpanzees performed better than human adults at a memory game.

Prior studies have found non-human primates can match numbers of objects, compare numbers and choose the larger number of two sets of objects.

“This is the first study that looked at whether or not they could make explicit decisions that were based on mathematical types of calculations,” said Jessica Cantlon, a cognitive neuroscience researcher at Duke, whose work appeared in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Biology (www.plosbiology.org).

“It shows when you take language away from a human, they end up looking just like monkeys in terms of their performance,” Cantlon said in a telephone interview.

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