Michael J. Beran, Ph.D.
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September 1, 2021



Beran, M. J. (2009). Chimpanzees as natural accountants.  Human Evolution, 24, 183-196.

I define a natural accountant as an individual who can keep track of quantities coming into or leaving an account containing some type of commodity. I will argue that chimpanzees are very good at this type of accounting although in some instances their performance breaks down in ways that offer interesting insights into the emergence of arithmetic capacities. I will discuss how chimpanzees deal with operations that involve addition and subtraction of discrete quantities and other forms of quantity accounting. After outlining this evidence in favor of chimpanzee accounting in these kinds of tests, I offer some preliminary data from more naturalistic experimental methods that might further refine our understanding of how chimpanzees deal with quantitative and numerical information in foraging-like situations that better approximate real world situations. These accounting capacities reflect the emergence of arithmetic competence and the evolutionary foundations of mathematics.

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