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

 

 

Beran, M. J. (2004). Long-term retention of the differential values of Arabic numerals by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Animal Cognition, 7, 86-92.

As previously reported (Beran and Rumbaugh, 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. Here, the chimpanzees were presented with the task again after an interval of 6 months and then again after an additional interval of 3.25 years. During each interval, the chimpanzees were not presented with the task, and this allowed an assessment of the extent to which both animals retained the values of each Arabic numeral. Despite lower performance at each retention interval compared to the original study, both chimpanzees performed above chance levels 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. For the 3.25-year retention, errors were more dispersed around each target numeral than in the original study, but the chimpanzeesí performances again appeared to be based on a continuous representation of magnitude rather than a discrete representation of number. These data provide an experimental demonstration of long-term retention of the differential values of Arabic numerals by chimpanzees.

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