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Monkey See, Humans Do

Scott LaFee on

Humans and monkeys share about 93 percent of their DNA. We think a lot alike as well.

In experiments involving indigenous Tsimane people in Bolivia's Amazon rainforest, American adults and preschoolers, and macaque monkeys, researchers found that, in varying degrees, all participants displayed "recursion" abilities, that is, a cognitive process of arranging words, phrases or symbols in a way that helps convey complex commands, sentiments or ideas.

"For the first time, we have strong empirical evidence about patterns of thinking that come naturally to probably all humans and, to a lesser extent, non-human primates," said Steven Piantadosi, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

The researchers suggested that with sufficient training, monkeys can learn to represent a recursive process, indicating humans aren't as unique as we recursively insist.

Body of Knowledge

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