Chimps Easily Beat Humans In Complex Numeric Memory Tests

chimpsVia the Guardian, powerful mental abilities we ironically have lost through evolution:

In a landmark test of short-term memory conducted in public in 2007, the young chimp Ayumu demonstrated astonishing powers of recall, easily beating his human competitors, who had been in training for months.

“We’ve concluded through the cognitive tests that chimps have extraordinary memories,” Matsuzawa says. “They can grasp things at a glance. As a human, you will never be a match.”

Why do the latter have such vastly superior working memories? As humans evolved and acquired new skills – notably the ability to use language to communicate and collaborate –they lost others they once shared with their common simian ancestors.

The institute’s researchers are trying to find how far Ayumu can go before he falters. In the most recent tests, the number of digits [shown for a split second] has been increased from 1-9 to 1-19.

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  • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness

    Isn’t it fascinating that scientist presume we “lost” this ability, instead of chimps simply being better than us at something?

    • Alan Morse Davies

      Indeed, smacks of insecurity doesn’t it?

      If we take the claim that we lost this greater capability seriously, then we either need proof that it existed in the chimpanzee-human last common ancestor, or that it existed in earlier humans. I doubt that measuring skulls or skull fragments would provide that evidence… oh wait, they didn’t even try to substantiate their claim using the only evidence that exists?

      I also find interesting the point about language and co-operation in humans as the reason for our loss.

      Chimps are social, they co-operate, they can also communicate vocally and through body language, so they communicate. The purpose of human language is communication, if chimps communicate, which we know they do, why dismiss them because they don’t do it like us?

      The idea of human exceptionalism is very strong I think in many cultures and religions, we inherit that baggage.

      I’d love to see the day when we encounter an alien species that is significantly more advanced than us (if we survive that long). Using our own human references they could see us as anything from primitive tribes to dumb apes, earth worms, viruses or primordial soup. Ha!

      • Calypso_1

        I’ve always hoped the aliens would see us as suitable hosts.

  • BuzzCoastin

    seems like these guys forgot that humans had this ability
    before writing obviated the need for prodigious memory
    hence Jung’s observation:
    “History will teach us nothing.”

  • Trevor Smith

    You realize that the ancients almost universally mention their ancestors had basically super-human powers, one of which was essentially perfect memory. The huge Vedas for example were held within peoples memory, word for word, before it needed to be put into print because our functionality was atrophying. How many people can do that today?

    Savants can access this right brain functionality as well since, as simon baron cohen has conclusively pointed out IMO- their left hemispheres development is compromised and hence its dominance is inhibited.

    Allan Snyder has found that stimulating the right brain and/or inhibiting the left via trans-cranial magnetic stimulation resulted in improved visual memory as well. No surprise there.

  • Ted Heistman

    Its definitely the all banana diet.

    • Thomas Scott Roberts

      So called ‘primitive’ people often had individuals in their culture whose life work it was to memorize and store all their knowledge and history. The invention of writing , and later of printing, helped spread knowledge farther faster- but it made this skill less necessary. So maybe it did atrophy over time. Chimps don’t have written language, so strong memory is going to be more important to them. And I doubt that in the wild they eat only bananas. Just because that’s what we give them, and they like them. Unlike gorillas, chimps are carnivores.

    • Calypso_1

      + raw meat.

  • Marlon Berend

    We humans are not that smart as we think we are….

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