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July 5th, 2008
In the News: Monkeys That Can Count

Most of the specialized abilities we think of as uniquely human didn’t just burst into existence fully-formed in the human brain. They are based on precursors that we can still see in our evolutionary relatives. So while we can manipulate elaborate equations with square roots and derivatives, monkeys can “count” audible beeps and equate them to visual representations of the same amount. Read this article and check out the video of these macaques listening and choosing – and showing that human beings aren’t the only ones who can keep count.

Researcher Kerry Jordan shared her thoughts with us:

“What makes us unique as humans in the domain of mathematics is our use of an exact counting system that depends on language.  Symbolic number systems are so important to human thought that most cultures all around the world have developed them.  This is despite the fact that we share a primitive number system with animals – from birds to mammals – which already allows us to estimate quantities without using language.”

Read the full article here.

Video credit: Elizabeth Brannon and Kerry Jordan of Duke University

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