Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Chimpanzees Beat out Children in Reasoning Test

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the monkey-see-monkey-do dept.

Science 663

caffeinemessiah writes "The New York Times has a story on how chimpanzees seem to exhibit a better understanding of cause and effect than human children. While training chimps to perform a routine task with redundant steps, the chimps were able to figure out and eliminate the redundant steps, while the human children routinely performed them despite their evident uselessness. It says something about the way we learn compared to chimps and should be interesting to cognitive scientists and those interested in computational learning theory, at the least."

cancel ×

663 comments

but children will become adults (5, Funny)

rebug (520669) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253369)

Chimps will always be chimps.

Lucky bastards.

Re:but children will become adults (5, Funny)

SenatorOrrinHatch (741838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253403)

Does anyone doubt that, when genetic engineering reaches the point where we can graft human vocal chords to chimps and dolphins, some of them will be plainly more intelligent than many humans?

I am certain it will happen, I just hope its in the next 20 yeas.

Re:but children will become adults (-1, Flamebait)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253425)

Yeah. Like El Presidente, and his offspring.

Re:but children will become adults (1)

Meagermanx (768421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253451)

"I dunno. How big of a monkey?"

Re:but children will become adults (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253433)

Lucky? Only if we're actually talking about Bonobos. Chimps can be pretty cruel bastards. As bad as human violence is, at least I'm fairly certain none of my competitors will ever cut open my sack and squeeze my nuts out. OUCH!

Bonobos are the ones that spend their days playing and fucking. They're the lottery winners in the primate game.

I HATE NYT (0, Offtopic)

aphor (99965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253371)

FP?

The NYT hates Slashdot, so click the link, a few times, but gimme a good one with no stoopud signup teaser!

slashdot is proof (4, Funny)

incubusnb (621572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253374)

a Chimpanzee would have stopped visiting slashdot a long time ago, its a redundant step.

oh, and First Post(though i've probably failed it, i have Karma to burn so do whatever to me)

Re:slashdot is proof (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253609)

In Soviet Russia, monkey beats . . . oh hey . . . !

Chimps writing PHP code. (-1, Offtopic)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253379)

I'd like to see a study of the quality of PHP code that chimps write. Sadly enough, I expect it to be better than that of the typical 13-year-old PHP developer.

Re:Chimps writing PHP code. (1)

eosp (885380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253390)

I'm sure doesn't compile.

Re:Chimps writing PHP code. (1)

eosp (885380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253463)

Stupid comment engine...I meant "I'm sure " without the spaces in the tags doesn't compile.

Re:Chimps writing PHP code. (1)

millennial (830897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253606)

Still not quite working.

Re:Chimps writing PHP code. (1)

iabervon (1971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253510)

I don't know about PHP, but imitating code including unnecessary steps works great in Python. Whenever I want to do something in Python, I start by copying some chenks of vaguely related Python code, and then modify them. I bet those chimps would start with an empty Emacs buffer and try to just write a program from scratch, and they'd have to keep looking up syntax and library calls in the manual all the time.

Re:Chimps writing PHP code. (1)

kjots (64798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253535)

... start with an empty Emacs buffer and try to just write a program from scratch, and they'd have to keep looking up syntax and library calls in the manual all the time.

Funny, that's how I write code.

Err ... Oh dear.

Re:Chimps writing PHP code. (1)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253617)

thats what we like to call a nerdcliff!

Re:Chimps writing PHP code. (1)

cloudkj (685320) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253547)

Chimps don't write PHP code. Hence, that's MUCH higher quality.

Re:Chimps writing PHP code. (5, Funny)

millennial (830897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253620)

<?php

$ook = new Banana.GiveMeBanana();
my $stomach = _FULL_;
my $sound = loudContentedScreech();

throwFeces(); // OOK OOK OOK AAH AAH AAH! OOK!

?>

Experiment Proposal (5, Interesting)

students (763488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253380)

I'd like to see another experiment done. Suppose, hypothetically, that a chimp showed a human child how to solve a puzzle, inserting unnecessary steps. Would the human skip steps more often if taught by a chimp than by another human? If so, it would show that what matters is if the species of the teacher and student are the same, not the what species the student belongs to.

Re:Experiment Proposal (5, Funny)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253394)

The chimp would probably eat the child, just so it doesn't get stuck doing pointless experiments.

Re:Experiment Proposal (4, Interesting)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253458)

It would probably eat the human child because chimps are vicious [msn.com] wild animals, not the cute, cuddly animals people think they are.

Also, the fact that humans are more likely to do unnecessary steps may indicate a greater willingness on the part of humans to experiment, which is why we have computers, and keep chimps in cages, and not the other way around.

Re:Experiment Proposal (1)

Elminst (53259) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253552)

do unnecessary steps may indicate a greater willingness on the part of humans to experiment,

Uhhhh what?
How does imitating unnecessary steps translate to experimenting?
Experimenting would be trying it DIFFERENT ways, which is what the CHIMPS were doing, not just rote imitation of what they were shown, which the HUMANS were doing.

Re:Experiment Proposal (0, Redundant)

shreevatsa (845645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253577)

Also, the fact that humans are more likely to do unnecessary steps may indicate a greater willingness on the part of humans to experiment, which is why we have computers, and keep chimps in cages, and not the other way around.
Huh? The fact here is entirely opposite—the chimpanzees were willing to "experiment" and do something different from what they were shown; the kids perfectly imitated the original demonstration each time.

The relevant parts of the article text:
Dr. Horner and Dr. Whiten described the way they showed young chimps how to retrieve food from a box.

The box was painted black and had a door on one side and a bolt running across the top. The food was hidden in a tube behind the door. When they showed the chimpanzees how to retrieve the food, the researchers added some unnecessary steps. Before they opened the door, they pulled back the bolt and tapped the top of the box with a stick. Only after they had pushed the bolt back in place did they finally open the door and fish out the food.

Because the chimps could not see inside, they could not tell that the extra steps were unnecessary. As a result, when the chimps were given the box, two-thirds faithfully imitated the scientists to retrieve the food.

The team then used a box with transparent walls and found a strikingly different result. Those chimps could see that the scientists were wasting their time sliding the bolt and tapping the top. None followed suit. They all went straight for the door.

The researchers turned to humans. They showed the transparent box to 16 children from a Scottish nursery school. After putting a sticker in the box, they showed the children how to retrieve it. They included the unnecessary bolt pulling and box tapping.

The scientists placed the sticker back in the box and left the room, telling the children that they could do whatever they thought necessary to retrieve it.

The children could see just as easily as the chimps that it was pointless to slide open the bolt or tap on top of the box. Yet 80 percent did so anyway. "It seemed so spectacular to me," Mr. Lyons said. "It suggested something remarkable was going on."

It was possible, however, that the results might come from a simple desire in the children just to play along.

...snip...

Having watched 100 children, he agrees with Dr. Horner and Dr. Whiten that children really do overimitate. He has found that it is very hard to get children not to.

If they rush through opening a puzzle, they don't skip the extra steps. They just do them all faster. What makes the results even more intriguing is that the children understand the laws of physics well enough to solve the puzzles on their own. Charlotte's box ripping is proof of that.

Mr. Lyons sees his results as evidence that humans are hard-wired to learn by imitation, even when that is clearly not the best way to learn. If he is right, this represents a big evolutionary change from our ape ancestors. Other primates are bad at imitation. When they watch another primate doing something, they seem to focus on what its goals are and ignore its actions.

As human ancestors began to make complicated tools, figuring out goals might not have been good enough anymore. Hominids needed a way to register automatically what other hominids did, even if they didn't understand the intentions behind them. They needed to imitate.

... snip...

In a few years, I plan to explain this experience to Charlotte. I want her to know what I now know. That it's O.K. to lose to the chimps. In fact, it may be what makes us uniquely human.

Re:Experiment Proposal (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253450)

I'd like to see another experiment done. Suppose, hypothetically, that a chimp showed a human child how to solve a puzzle, inserting unnecessary steps.

Isn't this already being tested in the Kansas public schools?

/ducks

makes sense (1)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253382)

the people i tend to find most intelligent when i am trying to teach them something are those who notice all the little details of how i do whatever i'm doing...of course, those intelligent people also generally figure out the reason behind the different steps i take to a solution...but the first step is noticing. i'd speculate that the chimps don't even notice all those extra steps they're being shown....

Re:makes sense (2, Insightful)

Sashira (938653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253462)

They don't notice the extra steps? But they repeated them the first time they were shown. If you need to invent excuses like this to feel that your species is better than chimps, that's a sign of a very unhealthy and insecure view of self.

Re:makes sense (1)

eyrieowl (881195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253516)

hahahaha! that's good! :) i don't need *excuses* to know my species is more intelligent than chimps. Intelligence isn't a value judgement, it's just a quantitative measure. Like...jumping ability...or speed. i wasn't even *trying* to say my SPECIES is better or worse than chimps, but I for damn sure don't mind saying it's more intelligent. but thanks, it was worth a good chuckle! :)

A little bit biased, isn't it? (5, Interesting)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253389)

Human babies have a prolonged childhood. Whereas a chimpanzee may be considered an adult by age three, humans may not even reach (emotional) adulthood until well into their 30s. So it seems a little disingenuous to compare chimpanzees to human babies when the rates of growth and maturity are so different.

Re:A little bit biased, isn't it? (3, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253441)

True. A more useful interspecies study would have compared human children and politicians, since politicians seem to have no grasp on cause-and-effect regardless of age.

Re:A little bit biased, isn't it? (1)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253482)

Agreed. There are physical development issues too at that age. 3 and 4 year old humans are pretty much helpless, whereas similarly aged chimps can keep up with the pack and feed themselves and are physically prodigious in comparison. I saw some thing on young chimps, and they were given toys that similarly aged children would play with; and they tore the toys apart. Like pieces of brightly colored plastic everywhere.

I saw something recently about how chimps learn. The scientist made a point to note similarities and differences in human/chimp learning: chimp girls mature earlier than chimp boys by about two years: they learn quicker and are more astute in picking up chimp culture as relates to toolset, etc. The boys couldn't focus on a task and instead bothered everyone in the pack and exhibited what humans would term ADHD behavior, i.e. impulsive, short attention span behavior... roughing each other up, playfighting, etc. It was interesting. In this many think that chimps are similar to humans. What was different: chimps didn't teach their young. The scientist noted humans were unique in the fact that we taught our young. As far as the chimps were concerned, either you paid attention and picked up a skillset, or you were fucked.

Life is such an amazing dynamic thing man. I'm just humbled and in awe of the whole thing.

Re:A little bit biased, isn't it? (1)

Tiberius_Fel (770739) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253600)

...humans may not even reach (emotional) adulthood until well into their 30s...

My experience thus far has been that some people *never* reach emotional maturity. ;-)

Re:A little bit biased, isn't it? (4, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253632)

In addition to that, human children are conditioned to do exactly what they're told. This will have an influence on things.

This is nothing new... (2, Insightful)

u-235-sentinel (594077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253391)

While training chimps to perform a routine task with redundant steps, the chimps were able to figure out and eliminate the redundant steps, while the human children routinely performed them despite their evident uselessness

Ever work for the Military? As much as I respect those serving you have to wonder about some of the regs they have to live by. If you've worked as a contractor (or served) then you know what I mean :-)

Re:This is nothing new... (-1, Flamebait)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253405)

Are you suggesting that the US staff its military with chimps instead of people? And what exactly is the change there? Do chimps not torture as often?

Re:This is nothing new... (4, Insightful)

Doom bucket (888726) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253412)

This should be insanely obvious to anybody.

These were adult chimpanzees, yes? And comparing them to young humans?

I'm sure if you compared young chimpanzees with young humans the results might be different.

Re:This is nothing new... (1)

egomaniac (105476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253480)

This should be insanely obvious to anybody.

These were adult chimpanzees, yes? And comparing them to young humans?

I'm sure if you compared young chimpanzees with young humans the results might be different.


The chimp in the pictures is obviously not an adult, so I would assume the comparison is fair.

Wal*Mart Kids (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253398)

The last time I was in Wal*Mart these 4 kids were going completely apeshit knocking things over, causing other shoppers problems, making a ton of noise... and their mother kept trying to reason with them and kept telling them what was going to happen if they didn't behave.

NOW... if those lil fuckers had been mine, I would have damn well made sure they understood cause and effect. See, this is what we get when our schools aren't allowed to whoop ass anymore. I'm certain these mongrels would have scored higher than some chimp.

Re:Wal*Mart Kids (1, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253576)

See, this is what we get when our schools aren't allowed to whoop ass anymore.

Schools don't need to "whoop ass". Parents need to be able to "whoop ass" w/o their kids knowing (or even having) the ability to "call social services". Parents should be able to practice a little "tough love" as long as it stays as a red ass and doesn't cross into black eyes.

The problem these days is that "timeouts" are used instead of the *threat* of the belt (the sound of a belt coming off a pair of jeans *still* bothers me to this day and I think it was used on me less than 5x).

Oh and all stores need to follow the lead of the guy that put up a *well written* sign on his door that asks that parents ensure that their children behave. Those that were part of the "backlash" against it need to seriously rethink their parental abilities and theories as they may not be the perfect parents that their precious parenting books tell them they are.

So let me get this straight. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253399)

Fully developed chimps beat underdeveloped humans at reasoning?

I'm shocked. Shocked!

Clarification (-1, Flamebait)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253401)

Chimps know Cause and Effect better than American children. That particular culture seems to have bred complete inability to follow basic scientific principles.

Re:Clarification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253419)

Speaking as an American, I think you're an asshole.

Re:Clarification (1, Funny)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253420)

Maybe the children were from Kansas. The rules of science are null and void in Kansas.

Re:Clarification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253455)

Maybe the children were from Kansas. The rules of science are null and void in Kansas.

Maybe the "chimps" were in fact disenfranchised Kansans? ;)

Re:Clarification (1)

Meagermanx (768421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253497)

The study says they're from a Scottish nursury school.

Re:Clarification (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253623)

You mean to say... in Kansas chimps evolve from YOU?

This required a study? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253404)

It's amazing that this conclusion required ANY sort of study to arrive at. All one need do is to look at how HUMANS are eradicating the rain forests, pouring all kinds of gasses into the atmosphere, and extinctifying untold number of species of plants and animals every year...

Then look at what the Chimps do...or don't do to their environment.

Seems like they have a pretty fucking good idea of cause and effect to me. They want to live, so they co-exist with their environment and don't shit where they eat... Us on the other hand... well let's just say that people are still somewhat confused about hurricanes and melting ice caps, etc...

Re:This required a study? (1)

Meagermanx (768421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253509)

Actually, they're going to become extinct long before us.
So we're winning.

Humans: 1
Mother Nature: 0

Perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253407)

Perhaps the children thought they could not deviate from the pattern and become more efficient; while chimps may not have had that thought.

Somewhat of a jump; with respect to the conclusion.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist. I could be very wrong.

Re:Perhaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253423)

Sounds like the average adult to me. This is the way I was taught how to do it, so this is how it has to be done. Period. End of story.

3-4 vs older chimps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253411)

Are the chimps the same age as the children? Would adult humans copy the same extra steps that the kids would? Do adult chimps do different steps then younger chimps?

Human survival trait (4, Insightful)

Thunderstruck (210399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253413)

Perhaps this is more of a survival trait in humans than a superiority in chimps. Growing up, there were a lot of things I needed to know HOW to do which were too complex for me to understand WHY at the time. Too, I emulate my parents' culture, often without a conscious reason, perhaps because their culture has allowed them to succeed.

When my windows box crashes, I reboot it, without knowing why. I could probably eliminate some steps between boot, crash, and reboot too...

Re:Human survival trait (5, Interesting)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253515)

Right. Really good point.

I had a discussion with a friend of mine about religion. She was raised religious, and while an athiest now, she was happy to have been raised religiously. I asked why; she responded that the religious foundation answered questions she would have had (albeit falsely) about God, death, universe, etc. and thus eased her mind about them until she was mature enough to decide that it was mythology to her. In other words, she did exactly as you suggested, emulated a successful culture dynamic too complex for her to understand fully.

We all do it as humans. It's what religion is. Do this because I(tm) said so.

Good point.

Re:Human survival trait (3, Funny)

Barny (103770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253588)

I could probably eliminate some steps between boot, crash, and reboot too...


What? like running windows, if it is really working as intended, it should crash on boot, saveing all that valuable work time you could have spent so you can look at buying a new PC :)

Understandable (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253427)

since we teach kids process rather than critical thinking. If you want to teach your 2-year-old to tie his shoes, to you teach a series of steps to be followed, rather than an understanding of what qualities a knot must have to hold. I suppose this may be because kids can't handle critical thinking, but this test can't prove it.

humans really aren't the issue (1)

quest(answer)ion (894426) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253604)

seems to me that this is less an insight into the limitations of critical thinking in human children as it is a refutation of what we've commonly thought about chimps. i'm not up on current chimp cog-sci, but since critical and creative thinking is always thought to be a hallmark of h. sapiens (even with reference to other direct ancestors of ours like h. neanderthalensis), it's pretty common to think of chimps as lacking in the creative problem solving department.

hell, the whole idea of humans as the "toolmaking ape" was based on just this sort of idea of what separates us from our living relatives--even though we've seen chimps in the wild using sticks or rocks as tools, the common explanation for that isn't spontaneous critical thinking or innovation, but a skill learned from parents (specifically the mother). so if this experiment does indicate that chimps are capable of at least minimally creative problem solving, this kind of forces us to redefine our notion of what makes us, as a species unique.

that said, i have my doubts as to what this experiment actually demonstrates as to chimp cognitive abilities. seems to me that even if they simplified the task mimed for them, they were still essentially learning by imitation. show me chimps spontaneously picking up a pencil to jimmy the box open, and that's a whole different story.

C&F: Monkey Smarts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253430)

"The New York Times has a story on how chimpanzees seem to exhibit a better understanding of cause and effect than human children."

[Human]
Cause: Illegally downloading content.

Effect: Effect? What effect? I never would have bought it anyway.

[Chimpanzee]
Cause: Illegally downloading content.

Effect: I better stop doing this. It might come back and hurt me later.

No English Profs at Slashdot ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253442)

There is no English word "alot". Its "a lot" two words, 'a' and 'lot'.

Thanks,

Concerned English-Lover

Re:No English Profs at Slashdot ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253492)

But isn't it more efficient to write "a lot" without the space?

Similarly, phonetic spelling is more efficient, once u r used 2 reading it that way.

OMG, humans are regressing into chimps!

Re:No English Profs at Slashdot ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253575)

Seriously, _what_the_fuck_ is the deal with these grammar Nazi's. If someone can reasonably understand the basic point of what I am trying to say, I do not give a flying fuck if I violated every single one of your precious little English Grammar rules.

Re:No English Profs at Slashdot ... (1)

burntbeans (530750) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253579)

[quote]
There is no English word "alot". It's "a lot". Two words, 'a' and 'lot'.

Thanks,

Concerned English-Lover
[/quote]

No English Profs at Slashdot, indeed.

What kind of kids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253443)

Were these those little fat kids you see with Wrestlemania t-shirts and sporting buzzcuts (sometimes with corresponding mullets) and big goofy beaver teeth who pick their nose and giggle at the boogers, but their Southern accents are heard even in said laughter?

They're called Americans. Go to any mall and you see tons of them.

Re:What kind of kids? (2, Insightful)

flynns (639641) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253474)

(1) I can't disagree much with the mall part, but...

I actually -live- in a fairly isolated part of the South, and dear -god-, that is the stuff of annoying television shows. (Oh, and Alabama, but they don't count). That sort of annoyance only resides in places like Opp, Paxton, Ensley, Florala, Red Level, and Florabama.

Ever heard of 'em? Nope. It's because they still don't have cell phone service. And don't have malls.

-grumbles about people making Southerners out to be 100% backwards, useless, stupid, annoying people, when we're actually only about 75% backwards-

Re:What kind of kids? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253555)

Perhaps the kids did what they were told and did it correctly. The article said they were shown redundant steps. The chimps only know they wanted food and didn't understand the 'steps'. This experiment only proves that a chimp would rather eat immediately than listen to anyone or follow redundant steps.

Frankly, I'm not terribly surprised... (1)

robw810 (819414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253446)

I've taught middle school science for seven years now, I'm not surprised in the least by these findings... Students as a whole do not know how to think logically, and schools as a whole aren't doing a good job of teaching them (not that they'd pay attention anyway)...

RW

Re:Frankly, I'm not terribly surprised... (1)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253519)

I work in tech support, and Im with the parent. bring on the chimps, they might understand that a reboot might solve the problem...

Re:Frankly, I'm not terribly surprised... (1)

ryg0r (699756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253553)

Thats why we should bring back the cane. And the stocks.

If I got smacked about, I'd smarten up quick. I think most people would.

What the majority of kids need is discpline. I dont think ADD would be so rapant if they got caned every know and then.

Even though people say I have ADD and say Ritalin works I refuse to ......OOH! A shiny thing!!

Re:Frankly, I'm not terribly surprised... (1)

Soko (17987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253557)

MVHO is that children not only need to know the how, but the why and how that applies to them in a logical manner before they'll be interested enough to listen properly. Say to a kid "Want to learn how to make a car do the 1/4 mile in 10 seconds?" you'll get them interested (girls like powerful cars too, BTW). Next, they'll say "OK, how do I do that, NO2?", and you say "Yup, but how much NO2? Where do you inject it? Can you do that without cratering the motor? In order to master this you need to know those things, and why they are the way they are. Let's start from the beginning..." and each step you show them that they're progessing to the goal of mastering the art of putting together a hot car.

I'm no school teacher, but as a parent I've often gotten through by showing my childern a goal, and geting them interested in mastering a process of achieving that goal. For example, when I get a "Tell me the answer, please." kind of question, my response is "No, but I'll show you how to handle this all on your own from now on, OK? Like a mature person does." - usually with positive results. What almost always happens next is "Hey, Dad, can I do it this way? It cuts out a few steps." - critical thinking.

My bet is that your class might be the very same way.

Soko

Re:Frankly, I'm not terribly surprised... (1)

robw810 (819414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253597)

Well, I *try* to make my classes that way, but it's tough to do in a society that's tailored to instant gratification - everyone is like "just give me the answer."

We're covering Forces and Motion right now (focusing on velocity, acceleration, and momentum type problems), and so many of the students just sit and wait for me to finish working the examples, then write down the answers rather than actively pay attention to the process followed to obtain the answers. The analogy I gave them today went something like this:

If I'm teaching you how to build a computer from parts, you can either watch and follow along with me using the parts on your desk (learn the process), or you can wait until I'm finished putting it together and come look at the result (just give me the answer) - which one is going to give you a better chance of putting it together?

RW

I don't think this study shows just learning. (2, Interesting)

ebob9 (726509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253459)

I don't think this study shows learning processes as much as the poster says it does.

I think the real key here is communication and culture. The Chimps were 'shown' how to open the box to retrieve the food. The children were also 'shown', and told that they could do whatever they thought neccicary to retreive it.

I would think that upbringing and communication would have a big impact on what the kids will do. Lots of times, when an 'adult' shows a child how to do something, they will take that as the 'correct' way to do it, and not deviate from that - because if there was another way to do it, why would the 'adult' show them incorrectly? Kids that have been taught or had the experiance to question authority would be more likely IMO to skip unneeded steps.

However, a chimp most likely does not have this 'follow what the adult says' mentality, so it seems obvious that they would do whatever is the easiest to get the desired result.

Judging from the News I Hear (1)

kadathseeker (937789) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253467)

People are stuoid. Chimps are probably also smarter than adults. I for one welcome our new simian overlords - they couldn't possibly do a worse job than any government.

Re:Judging from the News I Hear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253633)

New, whose talking about new? He's in his second term

Previous Experience (4, Insightful)

Muchacho_Gasolino (868337) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253470)

It would be interesting to know how much experience the children in this study had had with some form of negative reinforcement for not following a parent/teacher/etc.'s given method exactly.

I have two children (5, Funny)

Luveno (575425) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253472)

I believe this study.

This is just stupid (5, Insightful)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253475)

Why didn't they compare cats and humans? At 10 weeks kittens can already jump up on tables and wreck things - the kid is just slobbering on the floor. Does this teach us interesting things about how things learn?

No, it teaches us that there are some real morons at the university level wasting money that could be going to a WORTHY project.

This reminds me of the study a few years back when the attempted to discover why hot pizza burns the roof of your mouth.

Re:This is just stupid (0)

Freaky Spook (811861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253591)

"This reminds me of the study a few years back when the attempted to discover why hot pizza burns the roof of your mouth."

This study helped stoners all over the world! It most definatley was a worthy project!.

age? (1)

bicho (144895) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253479)

How old were the chimpances in comparison with the kids?

and no, I am not registering...

Not sure if this is true or myth (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253483)

But seem to remember something like this

That the saying a trained chimp could do this job as reffering to a boring assembly line job is in fact not true. While a monkey/ape could be trained to do simple assembly work it could not do it for the 8 hour shifts that humans can without going insane.

Sure it is nice if you can see the redundancy in your actions but it doesn't seem to allow chimps to keep growing. Childeren may be more limited then chimps but something must work better since adults are clearly superior to chimps. Unless of course you go for the hitchhiker guide explanation of humans experimenting on chimps.

Re:Not sure if this is true or myth (2, Funny)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253572)

That the saying a trained chimp could do this job as reffering to a boring assembly line job is in fact not true. While a monkey/ape could be trained to do simple assembly work it could not do it for the 8 hour shifts that humans can without going insane.


Thats because the human already is insane. All humans are insane, but since we control the dictionary, we get to call ourselves sane.

Of course they figured out... (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253491)

... how to eliminate reduncancy.

While training chimps to perform a routine task with redundant steps, the chimps were able to figure out and eliminate the redundant steps, while the human children routinely performed them despite their evident uselessness.

If you and 999,999 of your smelly coworkers were in the same room with the incessant chatter of keystrokes, and the occassional poo gob flying through your personal space, you'd figure out that "To be, or not to be" doesn't need to be typed over and over.

Interesting, but accurate? (2, Insightful)

Martin Foster (4949) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253493)

Could this be a certain amount of social conditioning on the matter. I had heard stories on how North-American children will form into lines naturally because they learned to do so in school, while some countries on the African continent, this is a rare occurrence. In many ways following direction is doing what is expected from a child when given direction from an adult?

I've seen fairly irrelevant procedures in many tasks that exist for safety reasons. Weapons handling in the military is certainly an example of this and when it comes to such matters its not simple imitation. These involve a LOT of practice to get it just right and even then you have to keep it up to really maintain efficient drill on a weapon.

These tasks were simpler by far, however many would accept that the person showing the step is doing so for a reason. Trust is probably something that affects how we learn as well?

It's also proof... (1)

birge (866103) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253502)

that it's cruel to experiment on monkeys. You wouldn't put a child in a cage and perform medical experiments, right? Yeah, I know it's not a perfect analogy, but I'm not sure in who's favor.

Re:It's also proof... (1)

rk (6314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253567)

Your point is well taken... but chimps aren't monkeys. They're apes.

psychology not learning (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253508)

Its has to do with sociopsychology- not learning.

Children are told to do things all the time- they are punished if they don't do them exactly as asked. Kids are encouraged to conform and do what they are asked.

It has very little to do with learning or the ability to think abstractly and more with whether we are discouraged from thinking abstractly by our society. If we all thought for ourselves in the US we would be in much better shape. However a good portion of people let the church do their thinking.

Excellent (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253514)

I hear that they are also superior at flinging shit

brothel - what?

the fucking captcha word was "brothel"!

Socialization (1)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253518)

I'd guess (haven't read the article - doh) that is socialization and authoritarian behavior not problem solving - the human is exhibiting socialization behavior and listening to authority - I was told to do it this way, so I'll do it how I was told.

LetterRip

yeah right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253520)

Children are often taught to do useless things by adults and punished for not doing them just as they are told. Chimps, on the other hand, are not taught like this. Is it much of a surprise that a child, trained from birth to do what you tell it, will do what you tell it?

Further proof (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253523)

I find that this is further proof that man did not evolve from any species of ape or monkey. We deevolved.

Re:Further proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253590)

devolved...yup definitely

Forget child labor... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253524)

... chimp labor is where it's at!

Efficient, and they work for peanuts, bannanas, apples, etc...

Where to focus (1)

muchmusic (45065) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253529)

"It says something about the way we learn compared to chimps and should be interesting to cognitive scientists and those interested in computational learning theory, at the least."

This seems to me to be the important point, rather than the besting of human children that is currently the focus of comments. Do we learn by doing less efficiently than they do? Do they learn by following examples less efficiently than we do?

I appreciate the posting of this sort of article link - thinking is a science for all.

animal experimentation stats (0, Flamebait)

Schlemphfer (556732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253530)

Seems like a good time to mention that, according to the Humane Society of the United States, 1300 chimpanzees are being experimented on in US labs. [hsus.org]

And why are animals used for this testing? Isn't a main justification that they are incapable of reasoning? Here's a link with info on the effort to keep primates out of labs. [greatapeproject.org]

Authority (2, Interesting)

koreaman (835838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253538)

The children did the task exactly as it was described because the scientists were authority figures and their parents trained them that way. The chimps don't give a damn.

This view of authority is, however, a double-edged sword and could be dangerous.

Critical age (1)

steve_vmwx (824627) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253543)

I'm way short of being an expert on the subject but I believe young humans only developed "concept of self" etc at around the 3 to 4yo mark. There's a lot that starts to click around this age.

I suspect that if it was chimps v's 5 year olds the results might have been a bit different.

Cheers
Stevo

Imitation is flattery.... (2, Insightful)

Sashira (938653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253545)

I never know what scientific results to believe, so I tend to believe the ones that make sense. This theory of human learning makes a lot of sense. We tend to imitate each other even in bizarre behaviors. Remember Furbies? How 'bout our need for voting booths, because our votes may be biased by seeing someone else punch a card the same way? We often don't even think when we imitate something; people can go their whole lives without doing anything original. The human body has a lot of obsolete features, like appendixes. Evolution just doesn't keep up with culture, so though we can wish that people weren't a bunch of copycats, it's hard to expect humans to override a feature of their minds that was once very useful. Expecting originality is a relatively modern innovation. "the dictionary says heretic: a holder of unconventional beliefs. do you know anyone who is not a heretic? i don't." (Paraphrase Don Marquis, "Archy the Cockroach")

Re:Imitation is flattery.... (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253589)

I thought voting booth were out of fear that other people might watch how we vote and "correct" us later in a back alleyway.

That's what happens when... (1, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253550)

...you teach creationism as science. You get a bunch of kids that think someone saying "let there be light" created the universe in 6 day. Cause and effect. Then you wonder why they can't tell that dropping the hammer on their foot doesn't make it rain marshmellows.

I was more excited about this when... (5, Funny)

radiotyler (819474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253562)

...I read the article title as "Chimpanzees Beat Children in Reasoning Test".

I didn't know what sort of a reasoning test involved children and simians to engage in fisticuffs, but I was all for it.

conformity? (1)

adrianmonk (890071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253564)

Maybe children do this because they have been trained to be able to conform. Or perhaps humans are even biologically better at conforming to social standards. Could be because of better impulse control or something.

As much as I, an individualist, hate to admit it, sometimes conformity can make a group function more efficiently and can be useful trait.

So perhaps this behavior shows that humans are not dumber than but instead are more socially capable than chimps.

Actually... (1)

millennial (830897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253565)

More than anything, I'd say that this shows how indoctrinated people are into following orders. When even a monkey knows that some of what it is told to do is absolutely pointless, and a human doesn't, I find that a little bit scary. Are we slowly losing our ability to think critically, is it being bred out of us, or are we just taught to ignore reason any obey?

Children get REWARDED for imitation? (4, Interesting)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14253571)

[Disclaimer: I have no credentials in behavioural psychology, aside from what I have learned by reading and by experience as an amateur trainer and caregiver for several dogs, including two German Shepherds.]

Practically from birth, humans are conditioned to imitate each other, so perhaps it's no surprise that the children absorbed and retained the "ritual" portions of the tasks. Psychologists call it operant conditioning: when you reward a certain kind of behaviour, it tends to occur more often; if you don't, then it tends to extinguish. I wonder if chimps are more goal-oriented because their sense of reward is more focused on the final result rather than following a number of ritualized steps, at least initially. In short, perhaps young children are more conditioned to imitate, as well as being more capable of doing so.

Impress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14253626)

Maybe baby chimps have more to gain, by impressing adult humans than baby humans do.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...