Harvard Study Shows Monkeys Can Do Math

By Mick Joest 2014-04-24 16:47:26
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If “monkey see” is equal to “monkey do”, then how are we just now figuring out they can add?! A team of Rhesus monkeys were able to determine values for several numeric and Arabic symbols in a recent study, producing compelling evidence that monkeys can do Math. This has led many scientists to conclude that perhaps we’ve misjudged the capability of our furry friends. While they’re still far off from achieving anything similar to Planet of the Apes, the primates may have a grasp on some key secrets to the human condition.

How did humans first learn the basic rules of Math? Nature World News says the study, conducted by Harvard researchers, was meant in part to observe that phenomena in another species. The test? Researchers assigned 26 different symbols linking each one to a reward of juice. One symbol of course would equal one drop of juice, and it would travel down the line all the way to 26. The monkeys quickly learned the value of each symbol, and began frequently to ask for the highest value symbol.

From that point the researchers then would present two symbols on one side and a third on the other. The monkeys would then pick which value was larger of the two options and would be rewarded if correct. Researchers found the monkeys had no trouble adding the value of the symbols and choosing the correct answer! The results were indeed surprising, but skepticism remained that perhaps the monkeys were conditioned to the experiment so they switched things up.

A second set of symbols was then introduced, and to the surprise of the researchers, the apes performed again with high results of success. Does this mean monkeys can add? Elsa Addesi at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies seems to think so…
The data in my opinion are quite convincing, because it is really unlikely that the monkeys remembered each combination of symbols,..Maybe previous studies underestimated the addition capabilities of monkeys."

The only question left on my mind after reading this is why not use the number system to condition the animals? It feels like a bit of a hoax to teach random characters and symbols when we already have a functioning number system. Of course, they might have started to do that, but then realized they could effectively be teaching the first generation of ape overlords Math. On second thought, smart move, Harvard.
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