4
$\begingroup$

Assuming the research of Matsuzawa et al. (2007) (see also BBC video (2013)) isn't misleading, are there any other cognitive areas where chimpanzees (or other primates) have been observed to surpass humans?

For more context: trained chimpanzees seem to be able to memorize the random position on a screen of numbers from 1-9 in a very short amount of time, beating humans in the same test. There is one report from US researchers which could not replicate this though.

Based on those observations Matsuzawa has advanced the cognitive-tradeoff (evolutionary) hypothesis (there's a longer Vsauce video on that): essentially the idea is that humans "gave up" a good working visual memory for improvements in other kinds of cognitive abilities (This formulation is a little improper since chimpanzees evolved separately from our common ancestor with them, hence the scare quotes.)

Anyway, I want to know if this is the only known cognitive phenomenon in which (some) animals beat humans. Since training does play a significant role in the research mentioned above (and this seems to be crux of the controversy surrounding), I'm lowering the bar to asking if trained animals can beat untrained humans on some other cognitive task. I still think this question is informative (e.g. with respect to the power of learning), even with a stacked deck training-wise.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to look at spatial cognition, I don't know of any study that pits man against animal, but I bet there are animals that are better at dead reckoning and mental rotations. $\endgroup$ – StrongBad Apr 3 at 13:09
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Following on from StrongBad's comment, here is an article claiming that some animals are superior to humans at dead reckoning: blogs.scientificamerican.com/thoughtful-animal/… $\endgroup$ – Angela Richardson Apr 4 at 16:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They'd be great at inhibiting written meaning, like in the Stroop test! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroop_effect Seriously though, this question hinges on what tasks you consider cognitive. Many animals have superior eyesight to humans, and as such would be better at discriminating objects or other visual tasks; critically, not all of their advantage is due to structural differences in the eyeball. They accomplish these outcomes partially through different cognition. Is that cognitive? $\endgroup$ – Cameron Brick Apr 10 at 9:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.