Shared system for ordering small and large numbers in monkeys and humans.
There is increasing evidence that animals share with adult humans and perhaps human infants a system for representing objective number as psychological magnitudes that are an analogue of the quantities they represent. Here we show that rhesus monkeys can extend a numerical rule learned with the values 1 through 9 to the values 10, 15, 20, and 30, which suggests that there is no upper limit on a monkey's numerical capacity. Instead, throughout the numerical range tested, both accuracy and latency in ordering two numerical values were systematically controlled by the ratio of the values compared. In a second experiment, we directly compared humans' and monkeys' performance in the same ordinal comparison task. The qualitative and quantitative similarity in their performance provides the strongest evidence to date of a single nonverbal, evolutionarily primitive mechanism for representing and comparing numerical values.
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