“Chimp’s are smarter then you!” – Another bullshit headline

December 3, 2007

The mainstream media has been running tons of bits on “number-crunching” Chimpanzees today. Here’s one headline from WiredScience, “Chimpanzees are probably better than you at math.” Having previously studied primates’ mathematical abilities, I was shocked. It’s widely known that primates can’t do math because they don’t think the way we do. Eagerly I read the article only to learn that math wasn’t involved in this exercise. That pissed me off (I hate deceitful headlines), so I decided to blog about it.

Here’s the real skinny on this bit of misinformation. The chimps were TRAINED to use a touch-screen and memorization program. The program displays numbers in random positions, then the numbers disappear and the chimp touches the places the numbers appeared in numerical order (1, 2, 3, etc).

We know the chimps see numbers as symbols and understand that one symbol preceeds the next. But that’s the extend of their “genius”. There was no addition, subtraction, multiplication or division involved in this exersize. If chimps could add two numbers and understand what they were doing then that would be a true number crunching math chimp, but these aren’t. Again, the headline was, “Chimpanzees are probably better than you at math” …A complete lie.

Some chimps, which had practiced for quite some time, were pitted against college students who had no prior experience with this exercise. The students kept up with the chimps until the numbers were only appearing for less than half a second. I’m not impressed at all that chimps can be trained to react/memorize faster than humans who weren’t trained.

Instead of pitting college students against the chimps, why not use children and spend an equal amount of time training them? I’d put money on a 6-year old winning. …Children are faster learners than adults and have excellent memorization skills.

Obviously this story is another example of the media selling scientific lies by the click. Below is a clip from an average player in a Halo 3 match. Your reaction time here has to be in the 50-millisecond range to be competitive, and it’s ridiculously more complicated then the chimp game above. This is the kind of game humans (children and adults) play FOR FUN. Let’s see a chimp do this…



9 Responses to ““Chimp’s are smarter then you!” – Another bullshit headline”

  1. Cody Says:

    I think the media is more to blame for misrepresenting the study. It was really about memory, not math. Too often, the science is all right, but it gets twisted by the media to sound more interesting to the average Joe.

  2. 8r13n Says:

    The title of the article was, “Chimps are probably better than you at math”. Instead of complaining the school now has links posted in the comments of the article. They probably need/want funding.

    Scientists are smart enough to realize the media only cares about advertising revenue. It’s not everyone, but many in the scientific community ignore their moral obligation to the truth for a quick buck, I think these people should be publicly mocked. I consider the majority in the scientific community as guilty by association.

    This article was a trivial example, Global Warming is a better example of a more damning lie. Now that the other planets are warming up we know without a doubt that our impact has been/will be minimal on Earth’s temperature. We’ve wasted billions on the Global Warming lie because of idiot scientists and the mainstream media.

    …And FYI: Google is Mainstream. Ever notice how some new articles belong to bogus sites? Checkout this link I hit today. It’s a fake news article calling Obama a “Daddy’s Boy” Google said this was from Pajamas Media, California. There is no Pajamas Media, California. Checkout the page behind the big “Advertise” link near the top of the page, in the middle of the screen. http://pajamasmedia.com/pages/2007/07/advertiser_information.php

    Unfortunately most people can’t tell the difference between these marketing outfits and real news outlets. All I can say is this, “Never trust anyone trying to upsell you.”

  3. Emma Says:

    I feel better now that I know I am smarter than a chimp!

  4. Leslie Says:

    I figured this would be a faster way to get in touch with you. I saw this on the news today, don’t know if you have seen it, but I found it rather interesting. You can find out where you really come from, as in your ancestry. Seems legit, these people go around the world getting samples of DNA from other people, so they say they have an extensive database of DNA.


    You will have to buy the kit though to find out your geneology. I hope you are doing alright 😛 and you don’t need to post this! lol

  5. cognitorex Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more.
    Because the chimps can not add or otherwise do math in fact they are not actually seeing numbers.
    An appropriate test would be to teach each group a sequence of colors or non numerical squiggles and then test as to the speed each group could remember the thus taught order.
    An eight for example has meaning for humans. It can be divided by four, it’s an even number, etc. To the chimp it’s a meaningless squiggle that comes before or after other meaningless squiggles. Thus, like the bias that can appear in SAT questions because one demographic has a more natural affinity with social symbology the basic premise of the test is invalid.
    –cognitorex blogspot–

  6. Stephanie Says:

    Hey…check out the website–www.freerice.com
    What do you think?
    What level do you play at?

  7. Leslie Says:

    Okay, I was bored and tried the website Stephanie gave out…I stopped at 2500 grains of rice Vocab Level: 24, My best level: 25. -_- didn’t have the time to keep going at it.

  8. 8r13n Says:

    I scored 40. …Presuming that was low I took the test again, and again I got 40. Leslie, I think 25 is amazing considering English is your SECOND language.

  9. Leslie Says:

    Thanks B….did I mention I used to read the dictionary when I was little because I didn’t have other books to read??!?! LOL…sad but true!!!!


    How old are you now?? if you don’t want to tell it outloud just whisper it to my ear 😉


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