Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Animal Cognition: Chimps remembering symbols

Rate this topic


softwareNerd
 Share

Recommended Posts

Here's a short video of a chimp remembering the placement of symbols on a screen. Impressive that he can remember the placement so quickly. I know he'd beat me at that game, and probably most humans.

The reporter concludes by suggesting that perhaps the chimp was more motivated (to get peanuts) than the human shown in the video, but that doesn't sound plausible. Assuming the chimp was not specially trained, it would seem that chimps are better at this specific category of task. On the face of it, there's nothing odd or controversial that one animal can do certain types of task better than another. More specifically, man's far superior brain doesn't imply that he should be able to do any such specific category of brain-related task better than all others.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow! that guy has the brain of a superchimp tongue.gif

Seriously though, there is no question that man's brain has an overall lead. One can simply look at Rome and ask if a chimp could build it. Even simply on memorization, men can remember all sorts of complex and interrelated things, by integrating one fact with another. We can even remember the phone numbers of 10 friends (at least we used to, in my day :) ).

When it comes to remembering some pattern-less set of symbols, and doing it almost instantaneously, without purposefully committing it to memory, the chimp seems better than humans. This Stephen Wiltshire guy beats the chimp hands down, but he's an exception. I don;t know if the chimp was an exception. For instance, if it took training to get the chimp to that position, then the task is far less impressive. If most other chimps cannot do that type of task, it is also less impressive (though the reporter claimed they can).

Edited by softwareNerd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think humanity was well represented in that contest. Children beat adults at video games all the time. I bet a twelve-year old girl could beat that chimp, a more nearly age equivalent counterpart.

Yes, I was going to mention that much of this has to do with the way the brain is used and developed. I'm constantly amazed at what my children can do in terms of instant recall and memorization. Both my 4 and 6 year old boys can instantly name US presidents in order starting from anywhere. Originally they learned through a song. They can do this with the US states too, and the older one has memorized the capitals. There's an iPad app called stack the states which has also caused them to be able to instantly recognize each state by its shape and size. In a race, they can call out the state capitals and name states based on their geographic shape faster than I can. It seems automatic and computer like.

And I don't think this is either luck or genetics. I'm very interested in brain development and epistemology -- We feed their interests with as much accurate information and learning tools as we can creatively think of. I'm interested to see how much they retain long-term... One thing Ayn Rand said was that a child under the age of 6 cannot understand what it means to think. I've been teaching my kids about focus, concentration, awareness and consciousness as much as I can... To a large extent, that is the biggest challenge in my experience with my kids. The choice to focus doesn't appear to be something they are naturally inclined to, nor is it easy to do. However, when they do focus, they appear to be able to absorb more and faster than I can.

...as for the chimp brain, I think it is likely that pattern recognition is something that is of a higher survival importance... I'm just thinking about swinging through trees, identifying what you can grab and what you can't -- being aware of potential predators. That would be my hypothesis as to why their brain's may be "better wired" (i.e. have been developed) to excel at the particular test in the video than an average adult human's.

Edited by freestyle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the face of it, there's nothing odd or controversial that one animal can do certain types of task better than another. More specifically, man's far superior brain doesn't imply that he should be able to do any such specific category of brain-related task better than all others.

I think the crucial thing to remember here is that this experiment really tests low-level perceptual brain function rather than high-level concept formation. Since chimps live in the wild, they need to be able to perceive and react to observations very quickly. I am guessing that the chimp's brain provides faster reaction time, as well as a more vivid "after-image", which explains the animal's success at this game. What you have to do to test for a true conceptual faculty is overload the creature's perceptual faculty: give it far too many things to keep in its consciousness simultaneously. For example, imagine that the chimp and the man are given the numbers from 1 to 100 on the screen. Both are given several hours to look at the screen before the symbols are obscured. I am betting that the chimp would be overwhelmed in this case, whereas a (clever) human would use memory tricks to get at least most of it right.

In the given test, I think a professional athlete would make a better match for the chimp than, say, a professional mathematician.

Edit: looks like freestyle beat me too it with some of these observations.

Edited by Tenzing_Shaw
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I was going to mention that much of this has to do with the way the brain is used and developed. I'm constantly amazed at what my children can do in terms of instant recall and memorization. Both my 4 and 6 year old boys can instantly name US presidents in order starting from anywhere. Originally they learned through a song. They can do this with the US states too, and the older one has memorized the capitals. There's an iPad app called stack the states which has also caused them to be able to instantly recognize each state by its shape and size. In a race, they can call out the state capitals and name states based on their geographic shape faster than I can. It seems automatic and computer like.

I'm curious, how do they distinguish Colorado and Wyoming? Both states are quadrangles 7 degrees of longitude wide by 4 degrees of latitude tall; Wyoming ends up being slightly smaller because it's at higher latitudes than Colorado (the northern and southern boundaries of Wyoming should curve slightly more sharply too). That and slight bodges in the original surveys cause some very small difference in the states' shapes but I can't imagine someone being able to tell them apart unless one is placed atop the other in some way to highlight the east-west difference. It'd be hopeless if the shapes were drawn on a Mercator projection (well, actually Wyoming would end up looking ever so slightly taller than Colorado). Do these states show a dot for the capital? If so that makes them quite a bit easier to distinguish. (Cheyenne WY is near the SE corner of the state, Denver CO is somewhat northeast of the center of the state.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There was an interesting study in 2005 by Yale I think studying other primates' potential ability to understand currency.

They trained capuchin monkies to understand that they would be given tokens for performing tasks and they would have to trade the tokens for things they wanted like food, treats, toys and such.

It wasn't long before researchers found a male monkey giving tokens to a female in exchange for sex, the female then going to the "store" to spend her tokens.

There's a lot of stories online about the study and for a while much of the actual paper was available online.

I believe I posted a topic about it awhile back- monkey hookers or some such thing should bring it up on a search here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm curious, how do they distinguish Colorado and Wyoming?...

Typically the tests we've done have multiple choice answers (which they never look at anyway - and the 4 year old doesn't quite read yet). However, your question got me thinking so I did a test. On the first time, Colorado came up they got it (confidently). I asked how he could tell and he said he noticed "similarities"...

HOWEVER, on further testing, they could NOT distinguish those two states with regularity -- I video recorded for a while to see those two states come up and they had strong guesses each time, but they were definitely guess.

So, I took screen shots of the two and am letting them study the differences --- I'll test again later. :-)

post-7262-0-81336800-1296944032_thumb.pn

post-7262-0-14878600-1296944035_thumb.pn

Edited by freestyle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the video... The first time either Colorado or Wyoming comes up is at about the 2min mark. Then they come up a few more times after that. Boring video, I know, but you can see how quickly they can identify them. If I had the internet and the iPad when I was their age, I think I'd be about 10x smarter than I am now. :-/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7Wu1k1TSks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looking at your thumbnails I correctly guessed Wyoming was on the left--the north and south borders curve more than on the right. I can't guarantee I'd always get it right though.

I have no difficulty believing the rest (so I didn't watch the video, being short on my gigabyte allowance for the month); it's amazing what people will learn when it is fun to do so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/world-news/chimp-beats-british-memory-champ_10014836.html

I saw the episode of Extraordinary Animals written about in the link above. From my memory of the program, the researchers said that they had allowed a number of chimpanzees to practice the memory test but none of the others were as good as the one shown in the video provided by the topic starter. However, while not as good as the chimp in the video, they still performed much better than the British memory champion.

Unfortunately I could not find any more details than the short article linked above.

In addition, they said (on the Extraordinary animals episode) that one of the chimps, I beleive it was the one in the video, had also started to teach in infant chimp to play the memory game without assistance of researchers. Apparently he is also getting quote good.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...