Scientists compared the ability to shift attention in children and chimpanzees

(ORDO NEWS) — A group of British researchers compared the behavior of three- to five-year-old children and adult chimpanzees to assess their ability to quickly switch attention from the current task to new circumstances.

The ability to quickly switch attention from one task to another, or even work towards several long-term goals at the same time, is relatively easy for most people. However, British researchers wondered: are other animals, in particular chimpanzees, capable of this?

The experiment involved 224 children and 52 adult chimpanzees. The subjects were given a choice of one of four different-colored cups that were either green or blue on a shelf.

Each child or monkey was previously taught that if the shelf is green, then the prize (banana or sticker) will be under the green cup, and if the shelf is blue, then under the pink cup.

In other words, in order to choose the right cup, the subject had to switch attention between determining the color of the shelf and matching it with the color of the cup under which the prize should be.

The results show that participants of all ages and both types are capable of doing this, but as the age of the children increases, the percentage of successful choices rises sharply, from 50 percent in three-year-olds and 59 percent in four-year-olds to 80 percent in five-year-olds.

The results of experiments with chimpanzees showed that their ability to shift attention is at the level of three- or four-year-olds (they chose correctly 52 percent of the time), and the monkeys often made the mistake of choosing a cup that was “correct” for a shelf of a different color.

At the same time, the number of errors among five-year-olds dropped sharply, indicating a key change in their minds that our closest primate relatives did not experience.

The results of the experiment once again prove that many features of our behavior, which were considered purely human, are available to other animals. So the difference between the consciousness of a chimpanzee and the consciousness of a person is rather not qualitative, but quantitative.


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