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article imageMonkeys as Smart as College Students at Performing Addition

By Angelique van Engelen     Dec 19, 2007 in World
Monkeys are as smart as average college students when it comes to mentally performing maths tasks. U.S. researchers from Duke University say they're the first to have proven this.
The researchers established that monkeys are capable of answering simple mathematical additions.
"This is the first study that looked at whether or not they could make explicit decisions that were based on mathematical types of calculations," Reuters quoted Jessica Cantlon as saying. She was the cognitive neuroscience researcher in charge of the project.
Cantlon is well acquainted with two Rhesus macaque monkeys named Boxer and Feinstein (after U.S. senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California).
The official research involved with 14 Duke University students who were given maths tasks to perform without being allowed to use language. Perhaps the most spectacular finding was that the monkeys were as quick at answering the questions as the humans. Both groups answered questions in typically one second. What was also striking is that both made around the same number of mistakes.
Cantlon's interested in finding out how the human mind works and in discovering where human sophistication actually comes from. She suspects that a lot of it is to do with humans' ability to use language.
"I don't think language is the only thing that differentiates humans from non-human primates, but in terms of math tasks, it is probably the big one," she told Reuters.
Cantlon's study appeared in the PLoS Biology journal recently.
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