January 26, 2008

Ape Defeats World Memory Champion

During an upcoming episode of Britain's "ËœExtraordinary Animals" program, viewers will be able to see an ape defeat 2004 World Memory Championship winner Ben Pridmore.

Ayumu, a seven-year-old male chimp raised in captivity in Japan, did three times as well as Mr. Pridmore at a computer game which involved remembering the position of numbers on a screen.

It's a significant accomplishment, considering Mr. Pridmore, a 30-year-old accountant, is capable of memorizing the order of a shuffled pack of cards in under 30 seconds and spends his evenings memorizing 400-digit numbers.

Both the chimp and Mr. Pridmore watched a computer screen that flashed five numbers  five numbers at various screen positions before being obscured by white squares.  They then had to touch the squares in order of the numbers they concealed, from lowest to highest.

When the numbers were shown for just a fifth of a second - the blink of an eye - Ayumu got it right almost 90 per cent of the time.  However, his human opponent scored a rather less impressive 33 per cent.

Mr. Pridmore contritely admitted that he had met his match.

"I'd rather not be seen on TV doing worse than a chimpanzee in a memory-test," he said. "I'll never live it down!"

The TV tests follow scientific experiments that pitted Ayumu and several other young chimps against a group of university of students.   At the end of the experiment, Ayumu was the clear champion, performing twice as well as the humans.

It is suspected that young chimps may have photographic memories that allow them to remember patterns and sequences with remarkable accuracy.   

Professor Tetsuro Matsuzawa, the Kyoto University researcher behind both sets of experiments, told Britain's Daily Mail,  "People still believe that humans are superior to chimpanzees in any domain of intelligence. That is the prejudice of the people."

However, he added, chimpanzees can be clever in a specific task in comparison to humans.


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