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Monkey Ladder

Test type: Memory

Is your memory better than a monkeys?

You may not be as good as you think. Try this test to find out.

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About this test

Chimps have been found to beat humans on this spatial memory test!

Can you beat the chimp? A recent study reveals that young chimps possess extraordinary abilities on this task; in fact, these chimps have even been found to outperform humans (Inoue & Matsuzawa, 2007). Check out the video to see for yourself. This is one of three five year-old chimps who, after previously being taught to count, was much more accurate than university students at recalling the positions of randomly located numbers on a touch screen.


Intriguingly, these abilities in young chimps remain intact even when the stimuli are presented at durations so quick the eye doesn't have a chance to move and search the screen. This suggests that young chimps have visual working memory capacities akin to photographic or eidetic memory. This may confer a sizeable benefit hen it comes to memorising fruit locations or finding routes through tree branches. However, these amazing abilities do diminish as the chimp ages, with adult chimps performing less well than humans on this task. One theory is that the difference between humans and chimps reflects the specialisation that the human brain has undergone to allow the evolution of language. It seems that we may have had to forfeit some functions to make way for others.

-Inoue, S., & Matsuzawa, T (2007). Working memory of numerals in chimpanzees. Current Biology 17 (23) R1004-R1005 Download PDF

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