Prometheus Unbound

Natural selection has given chimps a phenomenal short term memory. Japanese researchers have found that if you flash the average chimpanzee a screen of numbers in different locations up to nine, then cause the screen to disappear, the chimp can reconstruct the location of the numbers in numerical order. One especially quick chimp can remember the order and location of 19 numbers!

This skill is related to living in trees (identifying and locating the position of different fruits and branches in trees). It may also be useful in identifying and sizing up a pack of rival chimps (fight or flight). In any event, only savants can perform the trick among humans. Neither you nor I could ever hope to outperform a chimp on this particular test of intelligence.


One thing impressive here is the certainty with which chimps respond to this test. There are no conflicted Hamlets here. If they could…

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