Friday, June 26, 2009

Monkeys don't all think alike

Tamarins not used in the studies below. Which one is smarter?

We all know that some individuals often seem inherently 'smarter' than others. The same is true for some monkeys. 'General intelligence' refers to our inherent ability to learn new tasks. Monkeys are thought to have something very similar to general intelligence. General intelligence is thought to account for 40-60% and 80% of performance on cognitive tasks for humans and tamarins respectively (environmental and other factors explain the remaining variation in performance between individuals). Also, these are indirect comparisons since the species were subjected to different tests in different studies.

Research led by Konika Banerjee at Harvard University tested the general intelligence of a group of 22 cotton-top tamarins with an 11 task 'monkey IQ test'. She and her colleagues found that there was variation between the general intelligence of individuals across all of the tasks studied. By quantifying such performance across species we might gain insights into the role that general intelligence played in evolution of human intelligence. The work was funded by the Harvard College Research Program, the Goelet Fund to Banerjee, and from grants from the McDonnell Foundation and NSF.

The original research article can be found in the journal PLosOne here

A nice summary can be found here.

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