Basic math in monkeys and college students.

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Cantlon, Jessica F; Brannon, Elizabeth M
Year of Publication: 2007
Journal: PLoS Biol
Volume: 5
Issue: 12
Pagination: e328
Date Published: 2007 Dec
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1545-7885
Keywords: Animals, Cognition, Female, Humans, Macaca mulatta, Mathematics, Students, Time Factors, Universities

Adult humans possess a sophisticated repertoire of mathematical faculties. Many of these capacities are rooted in symbolic language and are therefore unlikely to be shared with nonhuman animals. However, a subset of these skills is shared with other animals, and this set is considered a cognitive vestige of our common evolutionary history. Current evidence indicates that humans and nonhuman animals share a core set of abilities for representing and comparing approximate numerosities nonverbally; however, it remains unclear whether nonhuman animals can perform approximate mental arithmetic. Here we show that monkeys can mentally add the numerical values of two sets of objects and choose a visual array that roughly corresponds to the arithmetic sum of these two sets. Furthermore, monkeys' performance during these calculations adheres to the same pattern as humans tested on the same nonverbal addition task. Our data demonstrate that nonverbal arithmetic is not unique to humans but is instead part of an evolutionarily primitive system for mathematical thinking shared by monkeys.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050328
Alternate Journal: PLoS Biol.
Related MOCA Topics: