Chimps are better than humans at some working memory tasks

Amazing. From the research report:

Chimpanzee memory has been extensively studied. The general assumption is that, as with many other cognitive functions, it is inferior to that of humans; some data, however, suggest that, in some circumstances, chimpanzee memory may indeed be superior to human memory. Here we report that young chimpanzees have an extraordinary working memory capability for numerical recollection — better even than that of human adults tested in the same apparatus following the same procedure

Watch that video for details of the test. The biologists think this might be connected to eidetic imagery:

These data showed that the chimpanzee subjects can memorize at a glance the Arabic numerals scattered on the touch screen monitor and Ayumu outperformed all of the human subjects both in speed and accuracy. Our results may be reminiscent of the phenomenon known as ‘eidetic imagery’ found by Jaensch. Eidetic imagery has been defined as the memory capability to retain an accurate, detailed image of a complex scene or pattern. It is known to be present in a relatively high percentage of normal children, and then the ability declines with age…The results fit well with what we know about the eidetic imagery in humans.

To me, this raises the tantalizing possibility that our working memory limitations are a core part of what it means to be human. We’ve been designed to hold fewer things in our head at once.

Other things I want to read, in relation to all this. I’ll add more if I find (or if people find for me!) other related reads.

Evolution of working memory

Does this connect to dual process theories? Dual process theories of higher cognition