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# Experiment Suggests Monkeys Can Do Basic Math

#### samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the I-waana-add-like-you-hoo-hoo dept.

87

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "It looks like a standardized test question: Is the sum of two numbers on the left or the single number on the right larger? Rhesus macaques that have been trained to associate numerical values with symbols can get the answer right, even if they haven't passed a math class. The finding doesn't just reveal a hidden talent of the animals—it also helps show how the mammalian brain encodes the values of numbers. Previous research has shown that chimpanzees can add single-digit numbers. But scientists haven’t explained exactly how, in the human or the monkey brain, numbers are being represented or this addition is being carried out. Now, a new study (abstract) helps begin to answer those questions."

cancel ×

### So monkeys can do basic math, (-1, Flamebait)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809355)

But apparently it's a skill beyond the abilities of most Democrats.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0, Offtopic)

#### bmo (77928) | about 4 months ago | (#46809409)

Because the Republican "cut taxes while spending trillions invading other countries" works out so well.

--
BMO

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0)

#### zacherynuk (2782105) | about 4 months ago | (#46809457)

You guys should really learn how to vote for 'none Of The Above'

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809693)

How? By moving to a different country? Voting is a joke, especially when the majority morons rule.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#46812083)

We really do not have that option.
The problem in America is that we USED to have 3rd parties that at least put pressures on the pubs/dems to keep them moderates.
However, when Poppa Bush lost due to Perot, the GOP announced that they would no longer allow 3rd parties to debate, and they would no longer use the league of women voters. Sadly, the fucking dems went along with the fascists.
So, now America has either idiots with the dems, or fascists with the gop.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### tompaulco (629533) | about 4 months ago | (#46815101)

You guys should really learn how to vote for 'none Of The Above'

The vast majority does vote for "None of the above". It hasn't helped.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810125)

JFK was a Republican?

The president finally decided that only a bold domestic program, including tax cuts, would restore his political momentum. Declaring that the absence of recession is not tantamount to economic growth, the president proposed in 1963 to cut income taxes from a range of 20-91% to 14-65% He also proposed a cut in the corporate tax rate from 52% to 47%. Ironically, economic growth expanded in 1963, and Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress insisted that reducing taxes without corresponding spending cuts was unacceptable. Kennedy disagreed, arguing that “a rising tide lifts all boats” and that strong economic growth would not continue without lower taxes.

http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/JFK-on-the-Economy-and-Taxes.aspx

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (2)

#### Dishevel (1105119) | about 4 months ago | (#46810319)

A rising tide may lift all boats. But that does little good when the only thing you care about is that someones boat is nicer than yours.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46813559)

Well done, you took the bait.

So brave.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1, Insightful)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809415)

WTF is with all the political bashing on this site lately?
Never knew math was so political...

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#46809585)

Never knew math was so political...

Sure it is, remember when W said, "Make the pi higher"?

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809649)

Apparently he didn't know about Tau heheh

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### sconeu (64226) | about 4 months ago | (#46809721)

He was talking about heaping more meringue on the lemon meringue pie.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809739)

Speaking of politics. There are no attractive women in national level politics.

This is what a woman who gets far in politics looks like. [dailymail.co.uk] I guess the hot ones just let a man do all the work and give him some pussy once in a while.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#46809945)

The ex-Aussie PM was worth a bonk, even if she was a rustymuff.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#46810385)

It seems to mostly apply to men also. Congressmen as a whole look like a Crypt Keeper gathering.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810837)

The Crimean attorney general Natalia Poklonskaya has been getting rather popular these days...

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### lgw (121541) | about 4 months ago | (#46809747)

WTF is with all the political bashing on this site lately?

It's gotten frankly absurd. Look, /., intelligent people disagree on some key cultural issues. There may be interesting discussions to be had where that's on-topic, but merely repeating abuse or over-used talking points on every freaking story is really dragging the site down.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809909)

I disappeared from this site for a few years. I have been back for a few days now and yes, the comment quality has gone to shit. I remember back in '99 when only a few thousand people were signed up(I had a 4 digit number in the 6000s),sadly lost that log in, but the comments were decent and could have a good quality conversation or even a debate about something walking away satisfied without either party getting all butt-hurt or bent out of shape about something. Time to just read news and find another site in which to throw(and read) good comments.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (1)

#### Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 4 months ago | (#46812021)

WTF is with all the political bashing on this site lately? Never knew math was so political...

The crazies left the Yahoo message boards - guess they ended up here.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (-1)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809575)

so maybe monkeys are more evolved niggers because i never met too many niggers that could do math. unless you count crack dealers counting money. or morbidly obese single moms with seven babies from six different daddies (who are conspiciously absent) counting how much is left on their EBT cards.

except for that - not so much.

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811189)

So the Republicans who want to cut taxes but keep all the military spending don't have this problem?

### Re:So monkeys can do basic math, (2)

#### WindBourne (631190) | about 4 months ago | (#46812079)

LOL. under dem presidents, deficits always drop, since Johnson. OTOH, every GOP (republicans and neo-cons alike) president starting with nixon, has caused massive deficits that increase every year.

Apparently, you neo-cons/tea* are not capable of math or facts.

### Even monkeys know about more and less. (2)

#### mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#46809425)

That's actually good to know. Question - given a full bowl of food and a half-full bowl of the same food, will your average house pet pick one preferentially over the other? What about if it's trained to expect the other bowl to be removed immediately after it chooses one?

It would be nice to see what animals are capable of this kind of differentiation - although the ability of Rhesus macaques to use symbolic representations to differentiate between 'more' and 'less' appears to be significant on several levels (at least, to me).

### Re:Even monkeys know about more and less. (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809567)

Obviously choose the half-full bowl, unless you're particularly hungry, because more food lying around means more chance of attracting competitors / pests.

### Re:Even monkeys know about more and less. (1)

#### MrBigInThePants (624986) | about 4 months ago | (#46809577)

The field of behavioural psychology is filled to the brim with experiments of this nature.

If you are truly interested you should do some reading.

### Re:Even monkeys know about more and less. (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809881)

Animals aren't NPC characters in a game - I'd think it unlikely that any reasonably complex vertebrate _wouldn't_ be able to distinguish two different quantities of food / enemies / whatnot in reasonably close proximity to each other..

### Re:Even monkeys know about more and less. (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46813719)

So you're saying that if while sneaking you shot an arrow into its head it wouldn't respond "is somebody there?" and then a moment later give up and say "I guess it was just my imagination." ?

### Re:Even monkeys know about more and less. (1)

#### AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 4 months ago | (#46813869)

Hmm... quantitative comparisons (this type of problem) were eliminated from the SAT some years ago because they were too hard or too abstract or maybe because they required abstract reasoning which was not taught directly in schools or something.

Anyhow, now we've demonstrated that a trained monkey can do these kinds of questions. Anyone else wonder what that says about our expectations regarding abstract reasoning for even high school kids?

### So this is how it starts... (2, Insightful)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809431)

...of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

### Re:So this is how it starts... (-1)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809629)

...of the Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Its worse then that! Just check out any american ghetto. Uncivilized monkeys with guns. Lots of guns.

Oh and if you think they should have aspirations in life higher than being a menace and a street thug ... you're a racist and you're not being "sensitive" enough to "their culture". We'll brand you with those things and shout you down. What we will under no circumstances do is explain why it's okay to want to be a thug because even we liberals understand its indefensible and we have to get all emotional instead of either admitting that or defending it.

### Re:So this is how it starts... (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810863)

Do you want them to have higher aspirations, Bubba?

### Re:So this is how it starts... (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810233)

First they started writing Shakespeare and now this. It was only a matter of time...

### Dangerous experiments... (1, Funny)

#### K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 4 months ago | (#46809445)

We can't have scientists doing experiments like these! Think of all the minimum wage jobs workers!

### Chinese Room 2: Simian Boogaloo (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809469)

If you tell a monkey that straight line cross squiggly line parallel lines double curved line, does it understand?

### Re:Chinese Room 2: Simian Boogaloo (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809547)

Ah, that stupid thing again, which supposes that humans are magically different. How boring.

### Re:Chinese Room 2: Simian Boogaloo (1)

#### lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 4 months ago | (#46810273)

we are that is unless you see monkeys smelting iron tools or dolphins living in skyscrapers or lab rats reading war and peace, whales flying to low earth orbit.

It is easy to see that some animals have some rudimentary intelligence like being able to tell the difference between small bowl of food and big bowl of food, but you would be a moron to not see that we are light-years past them in almost any cognitive test we can devise. Call me when a chimp wins game of chess against any human that has played more than once.

### Re:Chinese Room 2: Simian Boogaloo (1)

#### ceoyoyo (59147) | about 4 months ago | (#46811003)

This story is about monkeys that can do symbolic addition. They're not identifying whether one pile of food is bigger than another.

There are several tasks that various animals, generally primates, dolphins or various birds, can do that children of various ages can't. It seems more and more unlikely all the time that our brains are really much different than those of many other animals. We've just got a little more capacity (eventually) and a whole lot of nonlinear network effect.

### Re:Chinese Room 2: Simian Boogaloo (1)

#### BiIl_the_Engineer (3618863) | about 4 months ago | (#46809563)

Don't know, but to most people, math seems to be nothing more than "money see, monkey do". Understanding never comes into it.

### Re:Chinese Room 2: Simian Boogaloo (1)

#### causality (777677) | about 4 months ago | (#46809753)

Don't know, but to most people, math seems to be nothing more than "money see, monkey do". Understanding never comes into it.

Public schooling was never intended to encourage curiosity and deep understanding. People like that would be too difficult to manipulate via advertising, PR, carefully cherry-picked news, and other forms of propaganda. No one in politics or business wants that.

### Re:Chinese Room 2: Simian Boogaloo (2)

#### Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#46809991)

"money see, monkey do"

You work in marketing?

### Wrong focus (1)

#### Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#46809471)

Fine, but doing the Macarena well is much more profitable for a monkey.

### Slashdot sociopaths, as usual... (-1)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809473)

Your compassion is overwhelming. What is it like, not being able to feel the suffering of others? Do you think that when you pretend to care about people around you, that they believe you?

"The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?"
Jeremy Benthan

### Re:Slashdot sociopaths, as usual... (3, Funny)

#### lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 4 months ago | (#46810311)

Your compassion is overwhelming. What is it like, not being able to feel the suffering of others? Do you think that when you pretend to care about people around you, that they believe you?

"The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?"
Jeremy Benthan

I conjecture the better question is do they taste good with a side of sauteed onions and peppers?

### Some Monkeys Can Also Paint (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809501)

Monkey Paintings [dailymail.co.uk] .

Cheers.

### Re:Some Monkeys Can Also Paint (1)

#### Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#46810431)

Let's see if he retains that skill in the Hague.

### One of the monkey failed that test (1)

Scientist: If I give you three bananas, then another two bananas, how many bananas do you have?
Dr. Zira: I don't like bananas!

### Obviously (1)

#### king neckbeard (1801738) | about 4 months ago | (#46809665)

Of course Rhesus monkeys can do math, how could we have Rhesus positive and Rhesus negative blood types if they couldn't?

### Who didn't know this? (1)

#### rolfwind (528248) | about 4 months ago | (#46809731)

My accounting department and midmanagement is full of 'em.

### Re:Who didn't know this? (1)

#### ericloewe (2129490) | about 4 months ago | (#46810243)

You should be ashamed of yourself, calling accountants and (likely) MBAs monkeys...

Do you have any idea how much it depresses monkeys to be compared to such creatures?

### Re:Who didn't know this? (1)

#### gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46813871)

Do you have any idea how much it depresses monkeys to be compared to such creatures?

I know, right? They get so depressed it's all they can do to fling poo!

Who wants a half-hearted poo-flinging monkey?

### They can do more than Math... (1)

#### bobbied (2522392) | about 4 months ago | (#46809759)

I've seen research experiments where they did more than simple math but could play simple games against human opponents and win more often than not (of course they could practice and the humans didn't get any). I've also seen them do simple sign language (arguably mimicking but they could clearly sign things they wanted). They also create and use tools.

So we are surprised they can seemingly do simple math? Really?

Now I don't figure they will be taking college algebra anytime soon, but I really am not all that surprised that they are capable of simple math.

### Re:They can do more than Math... (1)

#### Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#46810029)

They seem to have some grasp of economics too.

http://www.zmescience.com/rese... [zmescience.com]

Even so, chickens (& geese) worry me more.

### Arithmetic != Math (1)

#### giltwist (1313107) | about 4 months ago | (#46809787)

Let me know when one of them provides a novel proof that the square root of two is irrational.

### Re:Arithmetic != Math (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810015)

Billions of humans were never able to do this until one day, one of them did. And then a few more. But billions more are incapable of doing this still.

So, according to you, most humans are not capable of mathematical thinking.

### Re:Arithmetic != Math (1)

#### giltwist (1313107) | about 4 months ago | (#46810733)

I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that it's an overinflated claim to say that the ability to subitize is "doing math." Pigs can subitize better than humans, for example. Likewise, you haven't really understood addition just because you can tell that 3+1 is the same quantity as 4.

### Re:Arithmetic != Math (1)

#### serviscope_minor (664417) | about 4 months ago | (#46813851)

Arithmetic != Math

No, but Aritthmatic \in Maths.

When one makes claims about whether one can do maths or not, one is not referring to being able to do everything in the entirety of mathematics. One is making claims about a rather small subset. Arithmetic is a small subset of maths. If monkeys can do basic arithmetic, then it's fair to say they can do basic maths.

novel proof that the square root of two is irrational.

That's something almost no one in the entire world can do. So, if that's your definition of "doing math", then you've excluded almost everyone. It's therefore a useless definition.

### Outsourcing industry is interested... (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46809801)

outsourcing industry is extremely interested in this research.

Monkey neither have labour laws nor they need H1B visas...

This might be blue ocean for low cost oursourcing...

### Wow that's amazing (1)

#### NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about 4 months ago | (#46809925)

First I hear they can write Shakespeare and now math? They're more teachable than the average high school student

### But they don't do logarithms. (1)

#### 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#46809985)

One prevailing theory on number representation—dubbed logarithmic encoding—had proposed that the brain always underestimates the value of larger numbers in a systematic and unchangeable way

But, it turned out, they did not underestimate any number systematically. They did it only when it was the smaller argument to the add() function. So, the take away is, meh, they can add single digit numbers, but can't do logarithms. Right?

### Re:But they don't do logarithms. (1)

#### ericloewe (2129490) | about 4 months ago | (#46810263)

The conclusion is that whoever wrote that has little to no idea what a logarithm is.

### Re:But they don't do logarithms. (1)

#### ceoyoyo (59147) | about 4 months ago | (#46811149)

That's what we smartass reviewers call a conclusion unsupported by the evidence.

### Re:But they don't do logarithms. (1)

#### gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46813917)

So, the take away is, meh, they can add single digit numbers, but can't do logarithms.

In fairness to the monkeys, I'm not sure I could anymore either. ;-)

### So monkeys (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810003)

Can count better than most Americans , though it dosnt say if the give the Americans an advantage and let them use their toes.

### Sure (1)

#### aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about 4 months ago | (#46810009)

Even I can do basic math, and I'm a fairly stupid monkey.

### It does not look like it at all. (1)

#### 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 4 months ago | (#46810057)

"It looks like a standardized test question: Is the sum of two numbers on the left or the single number on the right larger?

It does not look like standardized test question at all. The typical standardized test question would be, "Represent these two number in the number line. Use the \$latest_fad to find the total of the two numbers. Explain how you would use the number line to select to whether to be chased by hyenas or cheetahs. Or Draw a picture of a flower".

The child that writes, "I talked to my brain about the number line and the brain said the test is dumb. So I am off playing super mario cart" makes it to the Colbert Show.

### But can they do "Common Core" math? (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810179)

That's the big question!

### Hey now humans aren't monkeys (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810285)

they are hairless apes, and just because you can't bend space and time like a proper species doesn't mean you can only do basic maths!

### No surprise - Dogs can do math (2)

#### pubwvj (1045960) | about 4 months ago | (#46810549)

We have livestock working dogs. They do guarding and herding as well as other jobs on our farm. They do math. They can differentiate less, more, count, know numbers (we use numbers with them) and do simple addition.

Yes, these are not your ordinary pet dog - they're bred for intelligence and work at their jobs from a very young age so this may not be representative of all dogs. However, if our dogs can do math I'm not at all surprised monkeys can and I expect apes including chimpanzees and dolphins can probably do math too. These are social, cooperative animals and most of them are hunters which tends to develop brain hardware and skills.

### Re:No surprise - Dogs can do math (1)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810683)

Note there is a layer removed; the experiment used a 25-number range of symbols, so there's no counting involved, and summation has to be done on two abstract representations while their translations are held in mind. TFA suggests they may not be summing, but considering the two-symbol labels to be "modified bigSymbol", then TFA delves into neuro subjects above me.

This isn't to say dogs/other higher mammals are incapable of the same degree of forethought/translation. -AC.Falos

### Differentiate (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46815823)

What breeds of dog can differentiate? Can any integrate?

### Re:Differentiate (1)

#### pubwvj (1045960) | about 3 months ago | (#46864151)

Livestock working dogs. They do it all the time in their work of herding and guarding.

### Appearances (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46810879)

It would appear then that these monkeys are smarter than the average republican!

### Alas, poor arithmetic (1)

#### Ukab the Great (87152) | about 4 months ago | (#46810899)

I bet those bastards have known all along exactly how many typewriters they need to write Hamlet.

### Re:Alas, poor arithmetic (3, Funny)

#### gstoddart (321705) | about 4 months ago | (#46813973)

Oh, they've already written it ... they're just holding out for more bananas.

Ever since monkeys started getting MBAs it hasn't been the same. Now they just want to outsource the whole Shakespeare thing.

### Dogs (1)

#### bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 4 months ago | (#46811007)

Show your dog three biscuits. Give him two. See if he goes and lays down or if he calculates the number of biscuits in your hand to be larger than zero.

### Re:Dogs (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46812365)

he could probably smell the other biscuit

### Re:Dogs (1)

#### sl149q (1537343) | about 4 months ago | (#46813117)

Our "doorbell" is actually three rings on the telephone. Normal calls (one ring) and intercom calls (two rings) get ignored by the dogs.

Three rings and they start to bark to let us know that someone is at the front door.

### Re:Dogs (1)

#### Man Eating Duck (534479) | about 4 months ago | (#46828181)

Our "doorbell" is actually three rings on the telephone. Normal calls (one ring) and intercom calls (two rings) get ignored by the dogs.

Three rings and they start to bark to let us know that someone is at the front door.

That's more interesting than you would guess; your dogs know Morse. Dah = [t]elephone, dah dah = "[M]r. Watson—Come here—I want to see you", dah dah dah = [o]vert burglary attempt.

On a more serious note, I would guess that your dogs perceive the three ring modes as three different sounds, they're not actually counting rings. Dogs are good at responding to learned sounds. Sorry for the earlier snarkiness :)

### Most /.ers already knew (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811039)

Monkeys were smarter than coders. Now this proves it.

### My cat ... (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811373)

...can do basic maths. I asked her what was three minus three, and she said nothing.

(Thank you, I'm here 'til Thursday)

### O_O (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46811875)

You guys need to remove this post before you give some religious person a heart attack.

### Heston said it best... (0)

#### Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46812347)

Get your filthy hands off my tax returns, you damn dirty ape!

### Not news (1)

#### tanveer1979 (530624) | about 4 months ago | (#46812797)

I know many who can even code

### Proof of Soul (2)

#### abies (607076) | about 4 months ago | (#46814541)

I used to be in math-heavy secondary school, with non-trivial math curriculum. On one of our religion lessons, priest when presented with the question "Do dogs have souls" answered clear "No". By my friend was pressing - "But when you look into dog's eyes, you can see a thinking, sensitive being there, doesn't that suggest it has something like a soul", priest desperately looking for "shut up" answer, replied "No - see, if you give the dog your math exercises, it will not manage it, so it doesn't have a mind and soul". To that, reply was short "Neither will you..."

So, according to my religion teacher, we can rename the headline to "Experiment suggests monkeys might have souls" ;)

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