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Chimpanzees Inherit Half Of Their Intelligence From Parents, Researchers Find
- Updated: July 11, 2014
Intelligence in chimpanzees is in 50 per cent a matter of genes passed on between generations, a new study reveals.
In one of the largest studies ever conducted on chimp cognition, primatologist William Hopkins, of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues assessed the cognitive abilities of 99 captive chimpanzees, such as the ability to discriminate quantity, spatial memory and tool use. With the help of 13 tests, they measured various manifestations of intelligence, such as how the animals dealt with the physical world, reacted to sound, and used tools.
The results showed that half of the variability in performance on the cognitive tests, or their intelligence, could be attributed to the genes shared by the animals. The other half was attributed to environmental factors.
Hopkins noted that two categories of tasks proved significantly heritable: those related to spatial cognition (for example learning physical locations), and those involving social cognition (for example grabbing someone’s attention).
For Josep Call, a comparative psychologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, who was not involved in the study, the inheritable feature of spatial cognition is understandable. “Thinking about space is extremely important for a number of animals. It’s evolutionarily ancient,” he said.
In addition, cognitive performance was not affected neither by the sex of the animals nor their rearing history (whether they were raised by their mother or by humans).The researchers found however, that other cognitive skills, such as understanding causality and using tools, are not inherited by the animals.
The results support the idea of general intelligence, as opposed to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences such as mathematical, verbal or musical ability.