Well, its official, even a young chimpanzee is smarter than George W. Bush.
Okay, at least at memorization anyway.
Never mind that it appears all humans lose out to the young chimps at memorization skills.
Whiz Chimps Outsmart College Students
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Dec. 3, 2007 -- Three five-year-old chimpanzees have soundly defeated nine university students while playing a computer game that tests numerical memory skills, according to a paper published today in Current Biology.
The scores weren't even close. One young chimp named Ayumu who, in his off time, buys his own vending machine snacks, scored 76 percent correct in one game. The adult human average for the same game was 36 percent correct.
The study is one of the first to demonstrate that, at least under certain circumstances, chimp memory may be superior to that of humans.
"No human adults reached Ayumu's level," co-author Tetsuro Matsuzawa told Discovery News.
"The young chimpanzees are better than human adults in a memory task," agreed Matsuzawa, who collaborated with Sana Inoue on the paper and is the director of Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute. "Young chimpanzees quickly grasp many numerals at a glance, with no decline in performance as the hold duration is varied."
Matsuzawa was referring to the game, which functioned like the popular card match memory games on many home computers.
In this case, however, the three young chimp players (and their mothers), along with the human students, were each shown a series of numbers from 1 to 9 on the screen. The numbers were then replaced by blank squares, which the players had to touch based on their knowledge of numerical sequences. For example, if the numbers 2,3,5,8 and 9 appeared on the screen, the player had to touch the corresponding blank squares in that order.
What confused the human players was the length of time that the numbers first appeared on the screen. The shorter the duration, the worse they scored.
"Ayumu's performance was kept constant regardless of the duration of looking at the numerals," said Matsuzawa, who even failed to stump the chimp when he flashed five numbers for just 210 milliseconds.
The mother chimps and the adult humans all played worse than the young chimpanzees, likely because of a phenomenon called "eidetic imagery."
He explained that this is "a special memory capability to retain an accurate, detailed image of a complex scene or pattern." Many normal human children have the skill, which declines with age.
While chimps in the wild obviously aren't playing computer games, they use the same skills to assess numbers of fruits ripening on trees, hierarchical positions within their troops, and to evaluate locations and numbers of enemies "in the bush at a glance."
Matsuzawa theorizes there is a mental trade-off between memory and symbolization -- especially as it relates to language -- in humans. This may cause the apparent memory lapses later.
James Anderson, a member of the Scottish Primate Research Group at the University of Stirling, told Discovery News that the new research "is impressive on several levels."
"Of course there is the striking finding that immature chimpanzees outperform both adult chimpanzees and adult humans in the numerical sequence task," Anderson said. "This naturally leads us to speculate on the development of the cognitive abilities involved in this task, in terms not only of individual development but also species-typical abilities."
Anderson added that the study is also an "excellent example of how good laboratory-based experiments can reveal abilities that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to uncover through purely observational studies."