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


Beran, M. J. (2012). Quantity judgments of auditory and visual stimuli by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 38, 23-29.

Many species can choose between two visual sets of stimuli on the basis of quantity. This is true when sets are both visible, or are presented one set at a time or even one item at a time. However, we know comparatively little about how well nonhuman animals can compare auditory quantities. Here, three chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) chose between two sets of food items when they only heard each item fall into different containers rather than seeing those items. This method prevented the chimpanzees from summing the amount of visible food they saw because there were no visual cues. Chimpanzees performed well, and their performance matched that of previous experiments with regard to obeying Weber’s law. They also performed well with comparisons between a sequentially presented auditory set and a fully visible set, demonstrating that duration of presentation was not being used as a cue. In addition, they accommodated empty sets into these judgments, although not perfectly. Thus, chimpanzees can judge auditory quantities in flexible ways that show many similarities to how they compare visual quantities.

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