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Animal intelligence

Chimpanzee Beats Human Memory Genius in Memorization Competition

Sunday, August 03, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: animal intelligence, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) A chimpanzee has performed three times as well on a memory test as one of the top-ranking human memory champions.

Ben Pridmore ranks in the number two spot for worldwide memory competitions, can memorize the order of a full deck of cards in only 30 seconds, and regularly memorizes numbers up to 400 digits long. But in a test performed by the British television program "Extraordinary Animals," Pridmore's performance fell far short of that of a seven-year-old male chimpanzee named Ayumu.

Imitating the format of a scientific study in which Ayumu had formerly participated, both human and chimpanzee watched a screen on which five numbers were displayed briefly before being replaced by white boxes. They then had to touch the blank boxes in the order of the numbers they had formerly displayed.

When the numbers were shown for only a fifth of a second, Ayumu still scored 90 percent correct; Pridmore's score, on the other hand, was only 33 percent

"It is extremely impressive for anybody," Pridmore said when asked about Ayumu's performance. "He is doing something which I think is a really great performance even by human standards, so I'm sort of forgetting he is not a human being. When I bring that into the equation, it makes it overwhelmingly impressive."

Ayumu was one of several chimpanzees to outperform human college students in a similar memory test conducted in 2007. Based on such research, scientists believe that young chimpanzees have photographic memories for patterns and sequences.

In contrast, Pridmore memorizes long sequences a little bit at a time. "I have a mental image of an object or a person for each pair of two playing cards pre-programmed in my brain," he said. "I'd see a necklace hanging on a bouquet of flowers with an insect flying around it and then the insect would fly off to the next point of my journey so I'm making a story out of 26 different mental pictures."

"People still believe that humans are superior to chimpanzees in any domain of intelligence," said researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University. "That is [a] prejudice."
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