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Chimps Outscore College Students on Memory Test 271

AP's Malcolm Ritter reports that young chimpanzees were better at remembering a series of numbers flashed on a screen, than the Japanese college students used as a control group. Scientists plan to repeat the experiment using 5th graders against the great apes.
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Chimps Outscore College Students on Memory Test

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  • Misleading... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pwnies ( 1034518 ) * <> on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:13PM (#21562095) Homepage Journal

    Results showed that the chimps, while no more accurate than the people, could do this faster.
    Seems to me that the headline is slightly misleading. It's not that the chimps could do better on the memory tests, they could just do it faster - at least for the 8/10ths of a second test. Later the article shows that the chimps could perform the same when the screen flashed for only 2/10ths of a second. This doesn't necessarily mean that they have a better memory, as this could be attributed to peripheral vision as well.
  • by SparkleMotion88 ( 1013083 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:24PM (#21562251)

    One memory test included three 5-year-old chimps who'd been taught the order of Arabic numerals 1 through 9, ...

    Results showed that the chimps, while no more accurate than the people, could do this faster.
    Seems to me that these chimps were trained to perform this task. They've probably even used the test setup before whereas the humans were probably using it for the first time. I guess I'm not surprised that the chimps were faster than the humans. Also:

    But when the numbers were displayed for just four-tenths or two-tenths of a second, the chimp was the champ. The briefer of those times is too short to allow a look around the screen, and in those tests Ayumu still scored about 80 percent, while humans plunged to 40 percent.
    That says to me that a chimp is able to move its eyes around faster than a human is. This is also something I would expect. So perhaps this result says more about relative visual ability than relative cognitive ability?
  • by wolfen ( 12255 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:27PM (#21562283) Homepage
    The best part about this news story is when you reach the
    end of the article and the researchers reveal that
    their results are basically meaningless because you
      can get the same results by testing children versus adults.

    The real question is how to human children compare with the young chimpanzees.
  • Re:I Wonder (Score:4, Interesting)

    by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:28PM (#21562303)
    Was the test given before or after the students had a kegger? It might explain the chimps score.

    While that might have something to do with it I would assume it has a lot more to do with the fact that your typical college student has a ton more on their minds than just a series of numbers for a test. Numerous passwords, telephone numbers, what time/date they have an exam/group meeting/social gathering, several projects to work on that evening, etc.

    I would go so far as to say that the animals compared to the college students in the study have a lot less on their minds.
  • by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <sether@tru 7 h .org> on Monday December 03, 2007 @02:31PM (#21562337) Homepage
    It doesn't test anything such as deduction and problem solving either, which is where I would bet humans have the advantage.

    Repeat the test with a predictable pattern of numbers (or symbols, doesn't really matter), and have the subjects try to guess the next in the sequence.
  • Flawed Summary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @03:05PM (#21562777) Homepage
    The article itself contains a flawed summary. This does nothing to prove the ability of chimps to memorize numbers better than humans, but it does show a greater ability toward pattern recognition. That's not intelligence. In fact, I'd expect that given that pattern recognition is primarily a function of the ability to recognize a predator and/or food that isn't good for you. Given that we as human beings haven't had any significant predators and really don't forage for food (generally, there are exceptions) for thousands of years, you'd expect those lesser-used parts of the brain to "grow limp". A chimp, on the other hand has a certain biological imperative to be able to recognize predators early in life. Chimps that don't, don't perpetuate.

    There's also a factor that there are some biological differences between our species; like the physical fact that chimps can move their eyes faster and have physically smaller bodies therefore nerve impulses don't take so long to travel to the limbs.

    Frankly, I fail to see what has been proven here. Maybe I'm missing something because I'm not a chimp :)
  • by ChrisA90278 ( 905188 ) on Monday December 03, 2007 @07:08PM (#21565659)
    I wonder if the motivation was the same. If the rewrd for getting it right was an apple. the chimp might really, really want an apple. A doubt they rewarded the students with fruit and I doubt they gave the chips money. How could they know if the two groups had equal motivation and worked as hard to get a correct answer?
  • Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2007 @08:21PM (#21566293)
    I was jailed once.

    There we had phone cards with a long number (12 digits) and we needed to buy them to be able to call our families.

    Almost everyone there were able to memorize that number just reading it once. A short glance will mean you lost your credit. Most people would memorize the numbers in privacy to avoid showing the card in public. I aquired that hability in just 5 minutes of needing it. I could only do it once, when I was really inside everybody would be ultracareful with their cards.

    So the only reason humans don't do it is because we are lazy and rely on notebooks and other stuff to remember things. Put pressure on the test subjects and they will outperform the chimps.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.