Navigation Links
Pre-verbal number sense common to monkeys, babies, college kids
Date:2/13/2009

CHICAGO -- Basic arithmetic and "number sense" appear to be part of the shared evolutionary past of many primates; it's the use of language to explain abstractions that apparently takes human math to a higher level.

Elizabeth Brannon, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, studies how human adults and infants, lemurs, and monkeys think about numbers without using language. She's looking for the brain systems that support number sense and trying to figure out how this cognitive skill develops.

"Number is one of the more abstract domains of cognition: three coins and three loaves of bread are very different concepts," says Brannon, who appears on a Friday afternoon panel at the AAAS annual meeting called "Comparative Cognition: The Science of Mental Evolution. "Yet, many studies show that babies, even in the first year of life, can tell the difference between quantities."

She runs about 500 babies per year through her testing lab at Duke, as well as macaques, lemurs and the odd undergraduate. Most of the experiments involve computer touch-screens and sets of brightly colored dots.

After seeing the same number of objects repeated in different-looking sets, infants recognize the novelty of a new number of objects. So do macaques. And both college kids and macaques can do a rough sort of math by summing sets of objects without actually counting them. Their speed and accuracy are about the same, in fact.

That the evolved brain has some fundamental sense of number without language should come as little surprise, Brannon says.

"There are all sorts of reasons why number would be useful for nonhuman animals in the wild. In foraging situations animals need to make decisions about how long to stay in a given patch of food and when to move on," Brannon says. "Territorial animals may need to assess the number of individuals in their own group relative to competing groups to decide whether to stand their ground or retreat."

Understanding the biological basis of our number sense might also help early childhood educators.

Brannon's latest work is aimed at understanding how the human brain changes to accommodate symbolism as a child learns the names of numbers and begins to grasp more abstract manipulations. "If the nonverbal number sense is really providing a critical foundation for math achievement, then this will suggest teaching methods that provide more grounding in the nonverbal quantity system."

Brannon is also exploring the macaque's sense of an empty set, what we'd call zero with our linguistically intensive sense of number. The monkeys are more likely to confuse an empty set with a 1 or a 2 than they are to confuse it with an 8 or a 9, she says, which shows they're putting zero in the proper place on the number line.

"We're trying to understand how the animal mind works. How much of human thought is dependent on language?"


'/>"/>

Contact: Karl Leif Bates
karl.bates@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Battle Continues Over Vietnam PTSD Numbers
2. Record Number of Americans Lack Health Insurance
3. Growing Number of U.S. Kids Not Getting Needed Vaccinations
4. AUDIO from Medialink and Pfizer: Number of Uninsured Americans Grows to 47 Million
5. Number of Partners Doesnt Explain Gay HIV Rate
6. StemCyte, Inc. Ranked Number Six in Deloittes Technology Fast 50 Program for Los Angeles
7. Abortion Numbers Fall Worldwide
8. BioDiscovery Releases NEXUS CGH Version 2 for DNA Copy Number Analysis and Visualization
9. Health Market Science Ranked Number Ten in Deloittes Technology Fast 50 Program for Greater Philadelphia
10. Huge numbers willing to go under knife to alter their appearance, study finds
11. HearAtLast Continues Rapid Expansion, Opening Two New Retail Locations in Richmond Hill and Markham Wal-Mart Stores Number 3195 and 3053
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/5/2016)... , ... February 05, 2016 , ... The American public ... such water may be safer than regular municipal or well water. The recent experience ... host Sharon Kleyne, could go a long way toward increasing public acceptance of recycled ...
(Date:2/5/2016)... Dallas, Texas (PRWEB) , ... February 05, 2016 , ... ... to allow users to search for and donate to Give To Cure’s campaign ... is an app that lets users make and share payments through a smart device. ...
(Date:2/5/2016)... ... February 05, 2016 , ... Pivot Point Consulting, ... in KLAS: Software & Services for HIT Implementation Support & Staffing report with ... ranks vendor performance by healthcare executives, managers and clinicians representing over 4,500 hospitals ...
(Date:2/5/2016)... ... February 05, 2016 , ... Dr. Justin Scott and Dr. Lydia Muccioli of ... Dental Day to individuals in need. The event is scheduled to take place on ... Day is to provide dental care to community members in need. Each patient will ...
(Date:2/5/2016)... , ... February 05, 2016 , ... ... of CitiDent, announces that it is now welcoming orthodontist, Dr. Amanda Cheng, ... offers a complete range of oral health care, including general dentistry, cosmetic treatments, ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:2/4/2016)... , Feb. 4, 2016 For hospitals considering ... those already participating in the program, the Health Resources ... to as the , Mega-Guidance , could have significant ... is published in September 2016. Essential Insights ... Service Marketing , summarizes the Mega-Guidance,s key proposed changes, ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... Feb. 4, 2016  The Senior Care Pharmacy ... Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) ... today,s hearing , "Developments in the Prescription ... and growing questions about abusive pharmacy benefit manager ... (R-UT) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... Bernstein Liebhard LLP today announced that a securities class ... for the District of Arizona on ... or entities who purchased common shares of Insys Therapeutics Inc. ... 3, 2015 through January 25, 2016 (the "Class Period").  The ... of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: