Basic math in monkeys and college students.

Published

Journal Article

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.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Cantlon, JF; Brannon, EM

Published Date

  • December 2007

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 5 / 12

Start / End Page

  • e328 -

PubMed ID

  • 18092890

Pubmed Central ID

  • 18092890

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1545-7885

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1544-9173

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050328

Language

  • eng