Nav: Home

Chimpanzees' working memory similar to ours

July 23, 2019

Previous studies showed that chimpanzees have excellent long-term memory abilities. However, little is known so far about their working memory abilities. To shed light on these abilities researchers presented chimpanzees with a task, in which they could search for food in a number of small, opaque boxes. The chimpanzees first watched how pieces of food were hidden in these boxes. Then the apes could start to search for the food items by pointing at these boxes one by one. If a chosen box contained food, the chimpanzees received this food reward. After each choice, the boxes were covered for 15 seconds.

To retrieve all of the food items chimpanzees needed to keep in mind, which boxes they had already searched for food. The researchers increased the difficulty of the task depending on the ability of each chimpanzee by increasing the number of boxes and by shuffling the boxes between each search. The study revealed key similarities between chimpanzee and human working memory: the best-performing chimpanzees remembered at least four items, one young chimpanzee more than seven items. They used both the appearance of the boxes as well as their position to remember their previous choices.

Humans typically perform worse in working memory tests if they need to do something in parallel. Likewise, if the chimpanzees had to perform a second, similar task in parallel, their performance declined. Differences in working memory ability between chimpanzees were stable over months. The most obvious difference between chimpanzees and humans was not the working memory capacity but the search strategies that humans typically employ to facilitate this task: chimpanzees did not come up with the idea to search the boxes in line from one side to the other.

This study demonstrates that chimpanzees, like humans, possess working memory abilities that allow them to keep track of a series of previous events or actions. Contrary to previous claims, chimpanzees' working memory capacity does not appear to be fundamentally different from the human capacity. "Our findings suggest that chimpanzees perform similar to seven-year-old children in an intuitive working memory task that does not rely on extensive training", says Christoph Voelter from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna.
-end-


Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Related Chimpanzees Articles:

Crops provide chimpanzees with more energy than wild foods
A University of Kent study has found that cultivated foods offer chimpanzees in West Africa more energetic benefits than wild foods available in the region.
The growing pains of orphan chimpanzees
Using long-term behavioral and hormonal data from wild chimpanzees in the Taï Forest, Côte d'Ivoire, researchers from the Taï Chimpanzee Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, have revealed that mothers may be shaping pre-adult growth and offspring muscle mass even without direct provisioning.
How humans and chimpanzees travel towards a goal in rainforests
How do human-unique ranging styles, like large home range and trail use, influence the way we travel to our goals?
Chimpanzees' working memory similar to ours
Working memory is central to our mental lives; we use it to add up the cost of our shopping or to remember the beginning of this sentence at its end.
Research identifies key driver for infanticide among chimpanzees
Study concludes that the sexual selection hypothesis was the main reason for the high rates of infanticide among a community of chimpanzees in Uganda.
Chimpanzees catch and eat crabs
Chimpanzees have a mainly vegetarian diet, but do occasionally eat meat.
Chimpanzees at the crossroads: adapt to living outside protected areas
Chimpanzees at the crossroads: how they adapt to living outside protected areas Research carried out into the impact of changes to chimpanzee habitats found they have adapted to human developments in a number of ways -- including learning how to cross roads safely and the best times to visit human habitats -- but their survival is still threatened.
Social insecurity also stresses chimpanzees
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology conducted behavioral observations and collected urine samples for cortisol analysis of male chimpanzees of the Tai National Park, Ivory Coast, during periods of intense male-male competition.
Sweeping census provides new population estimate for western chimpanzees
A sweeping new census published in the journal Environmental Research Letters estimates 52,800 western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) live in eight countries in western Africa, with most of them found outside of protected areas, some of which are threatened by intense development pressures.
Chimpanzees lose their behavioral and cultural diversity
Chimpanzees are well known for their extraordinary diversity of behaviors, with some behaviors also exhibiting cultural variation.
More Chimpanzees News and Chimpanzees Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.