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Chimp Outscores Students in Memory Test

  1. Dec 3, 2007 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/12/071203-AP-chimp-memory.html
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2007 #2

    Moonbear

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    I've met a lot of adults whom I have no doubt could be beaten by chimps in cognitive tests. :biggrin:

    I wonder how they'd compare to school-aged children? My impression is that children are better at memorizing things than adults too (adults can incorporate more understanding and context, but for pure memorization, I'd hand that to the kids)...not based on any scientific evidence, but based on anecdotal observations; I'd be curious to see it directly tested (it probably has been and I just haven't seen the study).
     
  4. Dec 4, 2007 #3

    Gokul43201

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    There was a study a few years ago (or it only showed up on TV a few years ago), where participants of different ages were made to perform two simultaneous tasks. One was memorizing items in a list. The other was, I think, walking along some pattern. The older folks were better at walking the zig-zag but flunked the memorization. The younger ones did better at memorization, but poorly at walking. I'm not sure if this said more about the relativie abilities or had more to do with the way different tasks were prioritized.
     
  5. Dec 4, 2007 #4

    Kurdt

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    I saw this article this morning and was amazed by the chimps ability. They showed some of the film of the numbers flashing up and it was so quick I couldn't have gotten any.

    The article says humans most likely gave up the memory ability for language. There is a memorisation technique that involves using an imaginary journey with the elements you're trying to remember (or representations of them) being things that you come across during the journey. Would that be linked to the language part of the brain since its effectively a story?

    Like Moonbear I'd be interested to see the test repeated with human children.
     
  6. Dec 9, 2007 #5
    Chimpanzees have extraordinary photographic memory, superior to ours

    This is quite amazing, i never suspected that chimps could actually be better than us as certain things. found it at richarddawkins.net.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7124156.stm


    Watch the video, they really do look super quick at it, i'm not even sure i could do it that fast! http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/...tm&news=1&nbram=1&nbwm=1&bbwm=1&bbram=1&asb=1
     
  7. Dec 9, 2007 #6
    That explains why Evo's chimp paintings were of such high quality. Do you have anything on elephants?
     
  8. Dec 9, 2007 #7
    Don't they forget how to do this pretty quickly though?
     
  9. Dec 9, 2007 #8

    Kurdt

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  10. Dec 9, 2007 #9

    Moonbear

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    The two threads have been merged.
     
  11. Dec 10, 2007 #10
    Opinion: these chimps were able to learn and perform these tasks a lot quicker than humans; they forgot quickly too, a lot more quickly than we do.

    The informational entropy must have been higher, or less stable. The chimp brains were burning up more calories keeping the 'learning' stable.

    Is this a key difference between a human's brain and a chimp's?
     
  12. Dec 10, 2007 #11

    Moonbear

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    Key difference? It's not even a known difference. You set up something based on opinion, and not included in the article at all...on what basis did you form that opinion? And then you want us to tell you if the conclusion you draw based upon your untested opinion is a "key" difference between humans and chimps?

    Please stick to discussion of the actual experimental evidence presented.
     
  13. Dec 10, 2007 #12
    Right, so these chimps don't think any differently, any quicker, or slower, you think?
     
  14. Dec 10, 2007 #13

    Math Is Hard

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    Is it necessarily memory differences, or could it be visual system or response time differences? Maybe they are better at seeing faster frame displays, or maybe they can just respond faster. This is what is unclear to me. I can't tell how they controlled for this, if at all.
    We might also consider practice effects, since the chimps (likely) spent more time practicing the task than the human participants.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2007
  15. Dec 10, 2007 #14

    Moonbear

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    Differently? Likely. But what comprises those differences, or the direction or nature of that difference, there is no evidence provided here that can address that.

    I agree with MIH, that based on what's in the article, it could be more simply a difference in reaction time or visual acuity.
     
  16. Dec 10, 2007 #15
    Except for the observation that they learn it and forget it faster than humans do with similar 'skills'.

    Conjecture: The informational entropy must have been higher, or less stable.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2007
  17. Dec 11, 2007 #16
    I remember a documentary on National Geographic about chimpanzees performing intellectual tasks. Their intelligence astonished me. They would be asked to identify various shapes from a group shown on a screen. The correct response would come immediately, and the chimps would do this while munching on their favorite snacks and playing with friends, all at the same time, almost like an afterthought.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2007
  18. Dec 11, 2007 #17

    Kurdt

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    What observation? In the two articles linked to in this thread there is nothing to suggest they observed chimps forgetting how to do this task. If you've read it in a similar article then please post the source link.
     
  19. Dec 11, 2007 #18
    "the source link" is the BBC news channel, it also showed on Aljazeera, both times I heard the reporter say this. I could trawl for links to these channels too, I guess.
     
  20. Dec 11, 2007 #19

    jim mcnamara

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    Phred is talking about applying Claude Shannon's work on information theory (and entropy) to memory processing and storage in the mammalian brain.

    One outcome of this purports to explain why memory fades - the information that makes up the memory becomes somehow altered by natural processes.

    That said, it is only this: an idea.., It's fun to think about.

    Since there are a lot of human studies on short term vs long term memory, and some for chimps, wouldn't a better way to build a hypothesis be:

    base what is going with chimps in terms of short term memory, which chimps do have. And assert that their short term memory does not do as much conversion to long term memory - compared to humans. --- just a suggestion.
     
  21. Dec 11, 2007 #20

    Moonbear

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    Dug up the original article...can we say FLAWED?!

    They had two experiments.

    The first experiment basically just tested reaction time (how quickly chimpanzees and humans could complete a learned task of touching numbers in order when displayed on a screen). 6 Chimps, 9 humans...the chimps were all mother-offspring pairs, and one of them had prior training in other learning memory tasks (but then, I suppose we could make the assumption that all humans had prior experience with learning/memory tasks if they've gotten to college, but not in a controlled environment of course). Chimp reaction time was faster. Okay, fine. This indicates nothing about learning/memory, just reaction time, and it's not particularly surprising that a chimp might be faster than humans in reaction time.

    The second "experiment" only used TWO of those 6 chimps to compare to the same 9 college students! One chimp was one of the mothers, and one was one of the young offspring, each selected as the BEST performer from the prior task.

    Question 1) Why only 2? Why not include the rest of the group? Why bias it only toward the best performers?

    In that second experiment, ONE of the TWO chimps (the mother) performed similarly to the average for humans, in which ability to touch the white squares in numerical sequence (percentage of correct trials) decreased with decreasing duration in which the numbers were displayed. The other chimp (the young one), didn't have much decrease in percentage of correct trials with decreasing display times.

    So, what could that POSSIBLY tell you about anything? Note, they never show the individual values for any of the human subjects, but the error bars are large...it's entirely possible that some of them also performed just as well as the one chimp did. The average for the humans fell between the values for the two chimps.

    And, well, this part I'll just let you read for yourselves. How many things can you find wrong with this statement:
    I'll offer some help here.
    1) Chimpanzees got 10 sessions, humans got 1. They never say if they used all those sessions for computing success rates for the chimps, but that's the implication. So, if you kept letting the humans practice the task longer, could they have improved comparable to chimps? Don't expect the answer in this paper.

    2) They had TWO chimps and are analyzing their results by ANOVA!! ANOVA is meant for comparing differences among INDEPENDENT SUBJECTS. They've entirely misused this to report differences among replicates, not individuals. Replicates aren't independent. Sure, if you have 10 replicates for each chimp, and compare that to one replicate for each of 9 humans, you're going to get tighter groupings of those 10 replicates that are NOT independent and appearances of significant differences when you compare them to the variations among individual humans which are independent. They aren't even attempting group the two chimps together. They're treating each chimp as its own subject group (look at the degrees of freedom for subject).

    3) And then they tried to make pairwise comparisons between individual chimps and the group of humans?

    4) The come to the grandiose conclusion that "...young chimpanzees have an extraordinary working memory capability for numerical recollection..." Based on N=1 Yep, ONE! All they've shown is they have ONE smart chimp, and since they tested the one that was best in performing the task, it begs the question, what about the other two "slower" chimps they didn't test? I'd bet that if you took your quickest student in a classroom and tested them against a more randomly selected GROUP of students, they'd outperform the group on a memory task, but what does that mean other than the individual at an extreme end of the spectrum for any measure is going to perform more extreme than the average? Um...I think that was taught in probability and statistics 101.

    Verdict: Rubbish!


    Inouea, S and Matsuzawaa, T. 2007 Working memory of numerals in chimpanzees. Current Biology, 17:R1004-R1005.

    doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.027
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/scienc...serid=10&md5=b718d369de5d500413276c811e66d790
     
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