Chimps Beat Humans on Memory Tasks

Young chimps perform better on memory tasks than humans.

ByABC News
December 3, 2007, 6:06 PM

Dec. 3, 2007— -- In a memory competition of man versus chimp, Japanese researchers found that chimpanzees performed better than humans.

"No one could imagine that chimpanzees -- young chimpanzees at the age of 5 -- have a better performance in a memory task than humans," Kyoto University researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa said in a statement.

Click on our media player, left, for clips of these memory battles that pit man against chimp.

In the first test, the chimps successfully counted sequentially from one to nine in return for a peanut or other tasty reward.

In the second test, researchers flashed just some of the nine numerals, then blocked them. The chimps remembered, with mixed success, where each numeral was -- in the right order, even though some were missing.

Though far from perfect, the results surprised the Japanese researchers, who reported their results in the journal Current Biology.

One chimp, Ayumu, distinguished himself from the other chimps in mental ability. He was included in a second round of tests, which included him and 9 college students.

Five numbers were flashed on a screen for 7/10 of a second, before they became white squares. The participants were required to touch the squares in their correct numerical sequence. When the numbers were shown, Ayumu and the college students succeeded in guessing the correct sequence about 80 percent of the time.