Juvenile chimpanzees beat adult humans in two different short-term memory tests, according to a study conducted by researchers at Kyoto University in Japan and published in the journal Current Biology.
The research was carried out on three five-year-old chimpanzees that had been taught the order of the Arabic numerals 1 through 9, and 12 human adult volunteers. In the first test, researchers displayed the numerals in nine squares on a computer screen, and the task was to touch the squares in the proper order. But when the first square was touched, the other squares went blank, and the participant had to remember the original order.
All three chimpanzees performed faster than the human volunteers, although they did not score any higher in accuracy. Even after six months of training, three of the human volunteers were still unable to match the speed of the juvenile chimps.
In the second test, researchers included only the chimpanzee, named Ayumu, that had been the most accurate in the first test, and nine human college students. This time, five numbers were flashed on a screen briefly before disappearing, and then the participants had to touch the squares in the right order.
When the numbers were displayed for approximately seven-tenths of a second, both Ayumu and the college students scored about 80 percent accuracy in this test. When the numbers were displayed for four-tenths or two-tenths of a second, however the humans' accuracy dropped to 40 percent and Ayumu's remained steady at 80 percent.
When the numbers were displayed for only two-tenths of a second, it was impossible for a human or chimpanzee to look at each box on the screen individually. The researchers believe that the young chimp was simply better at absorbing the whole pattern than the humans.
The researchers hypothesize the young chimps did better merely because juveniles have a better memory for images, because an adult chimpanzee did worse than the humans in the same test. Next, they would like to test the young chimps against human children.
[Via Natural News]