“Monkeys Rival College Students’ Ability to Estimate”

I am 10 ideas behind in my blogging, buried in work and sick as the proverbial dog. And yet, when I read this article title on npr.org I just had to drop everything and share this with all who read me but do not keep up with NPR.

A brain researcher pitted 2 rhesus monkeys against college students. Both groups were shown 2 groups of dots on a monitor and then needed to quickly select between two choices which choice was closest to the sum of the first two sets of dots.

I feel a need to put the Duke University college students in a fair light given that they, and the University, are probably the butt of an inestimable number of jokes right now. (Actually there is evidence that the monkeys may be able to estimate the number of jokes of which the students are the butt of.) So here are some things you need to know about this scientific study:

  1. These were Duke and not Stanford students
  2. The students did outperform the monkeys, just not by a lot
  3. Had the students been given more time, they would have done much better–according to one of the researchers. (No comment was made as to what might have improved the monkeys’ scores though I suspect that there were motivational differences since the monkeys only received Kool-aid when they scored a correct answer and the students got cash)
  4. Monkeys are skilled at “fuzzy math” (don’t we have a President that referred to this type of math?)
  5. They monkeys chosen had attended an elite primate prep school. Many of the Duke students had attended public schools

Here is my favorite quote from the story. It puts things in great perspective given the elitist nature of humans generally and Americans more specifically:

“When you take away language from a human during a math task like this,” Cantlon said, “they end up looking just like a monkey.”

I could not have said it better myself.

To hear the radio version click here. To read the article click here. I just wish there was a YouTube version.

About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: