Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Individual primates display variation in general intelligence

Researchers demonstrate differing cognitive abilities within a single primate species

Scientists at Harvard University have shown, for the first time, that intelligence varies among individual monkeys within a species – in this case, the cotton-top tamarin.

Testing for broad cognitive ability, the researchers identified high, middle, and low performing monkeys, determined by a general intelligence score. General intelligence, or "g," is a hallmark of human cognition, often described as similar to IQ. The effect of "g" in primates may offer insight into the evolution of human general intelligence.

The study, published this week in the journal PLoS One, is the first to examine differences of broad cognitive ability in primates within a single species. Previous studies of general intelligence in primates primarily concerned variation between species.

The research was led by Konika Banerjee, a research assistant in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Banerjee's co-authors are Marc Hauser, professor of psychology, and James J. Lee all of Harvard, along with Christopher Chabris of Union College, Fritz Tsao of Hillsdale College, and Valen Johnson of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

"We found that there was substantial individual variation in performance on these tasks," says Banerjee. "A significant proportion of that variation can actually be accounted for by something that looks very similar to the general intelligence, or 'g' factor, in humans. It appears to be the case that tamarins have something very similar to our general intelligence."

General intelligence, or "g," refers to the positive correlation of an individual's performance on various subtasks within an intelligence test. Banerjee and her colleagues found that "g" accounted for 20 percent of the monkeys' performance on the tasks in the study. The remaining 80 percent of the variation in performance was due to task-specific or environmental circumstances in testing the monkeys.

While not a direct comparison, human "g" accounts for 40 to 60 percent of the variation in an individual's performance on the various subtasks of an IQ test. It may be that an increase in the magnitude of "g" was integral to the evolution of the human brain.

"General intelligence is an important component of human intelligence, but it is also possible that it relies upon ancient neural substrates," says Banerjee. "If different primate taxa differ in the magnitude of 'g,' with humans standing out from the rest of the pack, this might help explain how we, uniquely, can combine thoughts from different domains of knowledge to create new representations of the world. This cognitive domain general ability, captured by 'g,' is something that you might see to varying degrees in other primate taxa."

This study was conducted among 22 cotton-top tamarins, who were administered 11 unique tasks designed to assess different cognitive functions including working memory, executive control, information processing speed, and inhibitory control. For some tasks, the monkeys' goal was to obtain a piece of food, but this was not the case for all of the tasks. Monkeys with higher "g" scores tended to outperform monkeys with lower scores across the various subtasks in the cognitive task battery.

This particular set of tasks was developed for this study, but Banerjee hopes that it or other similar task batteries might be applied to future studies of primate general intelligence, to develop a standardized test for cognitive ability that could be administered to many species.

"We called our cognitive task battery the 'monkey IQ test' very crudely," says Banerjee. "It's a fun way to think about it, but to be more accurate, I would say that we are looking at global cognitive ability across an array of tasks that span multiple cognitive domains."

The research was funded by the Harvard College Research Program and the Goelet Fund to Banerjee, and from grants to Hauser from the McDonnell Foundation and NSF.

Amy Lavoie | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>