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Resurfaced 2007 study reveals that chimpanzees have better memory than human beings

This study by Kyoto University shows just how smart all members of the ape family are, especially chimpanzees, who share 98.7% of the DNA with humans.

Resurfaced 2007 study reveals that chimpanzees have better memory than human beings
Cover Image Source: YouTube | New Scientist

Human beings are known to be the most intelligent species to exist. However, did you know that humans share 98.7% of their DNA with other animals? Well, they do and it's with chimpanzees. Chimps are one of humans' closest living relatives from the ape family, along with bonobos, orangutans and gorillas. While humans have undoubtedly evolved from apes, apes aren't that far behind either. Even though chimpanzees are quite close to extinction, the fact that they are a lot like human beings still stands.


In a study researched and published by Tetsuro Matsuzawa, who is the Director at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University, he discovered just how wonderful a chimpanzee's memory is. To give some more context, he studied chimpanzees in Africa as well as Japan. He strongly believed that fieldwork and lab work needed to go hand in hand to get the most accurate results of any experiment. He calls this practice Comparative Cognitive Science (CCS). For this study, Matsuzawa made human subjects and chimpanzee subjects participate in the same tests in the same environment to see who excelled.

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Matsuzawa had been working with one female chimpanzee named Ai since 1977, back when she was only 1 year old. He and his colleagues religiously trained and taught Ai visual symbols to name colors and objects. By the time she was 5, she could name objects, their colors and numbers by touching the appropriate symbols printed on the keys of a computer terminal. Ai had given birth to a male chimpanzee, whom the facility called Ayumu. In 2007, researchers at Kyoto University put Ayumu through a memory test and he aced it.


Ayumu put human memory to shame. He was trained on a touchscreen and could recall numbers from 1 to 9, even when they would randomly appear anywhere on the screen. Not only that, but the numbers, after appearing, were immediately replaced by white boxes. Yet somehow, he could tap on the boxes in the exact ascending order of the numbers. Even a reduction in the amount of time that the numbers are visible on the screen made no difference to Ayumu whatsoever.

In fact, he tapped the screen in perfect order even after seeing the numbers for one-fifth of a second. Literally at the bat of an eye! While properly trained humans could reach Ayumu's level with 5 numbers, no one could do it with 9 numbers and 80% accuracy as he did. It's almost like he had an eidetic memory like Sheldon Cooper. He also took on a British memory champion who was well known for his ability to memorize a full stack of cards and emerge victorious.


This research study goes to show just how wonderfully evolved chimpanzees actually are. While the similarities between chimpanzees and humans in real life are nothing like what's shown in "The Planet of the Apes", it shows that the world probably is in an alternate dimension.

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