Kyoto University ChimpCollege Student Memory Experiment

If you have been paying attention to science news this month, then chances are you ran across, or at least heard about, the experiment conducting at Kyoto University in Japan. This experiment had college students and chimps match wits with a number game. And what the results showed was truly surprising.

The experiment went like this. Both the college students and the chimps were placed in front of an interactive screen where a series of five numbers that ranged between 1 and 9 were flashed on a screen for a predetermined amount of time between 210 milliseconds to 650 milliseconds. The numbers then were replaced by white squares. The students then needed to recreate the sequence by touching the white squares in order to replicate the sequence that they just saw. At the 610 millisecond (about .61 seconds), the chimps and the college students both were able to recreate the sequences about 80 percent of the time. However, by the time the sequence flashes were scaled down to 210 milliseconds, the college students’ success rate was only about 40 percent, while the chimps retained their 80 percent success rate.

This experiment created new insights into primate memory. This is a great news story to introduce to your students when exploring primates, evolution, intelligence, memory and comparative concepts. It is also a great discussion starter.

Developing super science fair projects is not always easy to do. However, by using science magazines and news articles, you can easily come up with ideas for life science experiments.

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