Michael J. Beran, Ph.D.
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Last updated: 
September 1, 2021

 

 

Beran, M. J., & Rumbaugh, D. M (2001). "Constructive" enumeration by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) on a computerized task. Animal Cognition, 4, 81-89.

Two chimpanzees used a joystick to collect dots, one-at-a-time, on a computer monitor, and then ended a trial when the number of dots collected was equal to the Arabic numeral presented for the trial. Both chimpanzees performed substantially and reliably above chance in collecting a quantity of dots equal to the target numeral, one chimpanzee for the numerals 1 to 7, and the second chimpanzee for the numerals 1 to 6. Errors that were made were seldom discrepant from the target by more than one dot quantity, and the perceptual process subitization was ruled out as an explanation for the performance. Additionally, analyses of trial duration data indicated that the chimpanzees were responding based on the numerosity of the constructed set rather than on the basis of temporal cues. The chimpanzees' decreasing performance with successively larger target numerals, however, appeared to be based on a continuous representation of magnitude rather than a discrete representation of number. Therefore, chimpanzee counting in this type of experimental task may be a process that represents magnitudes with scalar variability in that the memory for magnitudes associated with each numeral is imperfect and the variability of responses increases as a function of the numeral's value.

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