Chimpanzees are among the smartest animals on the planet and have even been known to outwit humans. When it comes to game theory – anticipating how an opponent will proceed in a competitive situation – chimps are top dog, a new study published in the journal Nature's Scientific Reports shows.
Researchers from the U.S. and Japan pitted humans against chimps in a simple two-player video game that had each player choose between left and right squares on a touchscreen panel. Players did not know their opponents’ choices until after selections were made. Player A won if his choice matched that of his opponent; Player B won if their choices did not match. Rewards in the form of apple cubes or money were given to the winner.
The experiment was about anticipating each other’s choices, a strategy employed in competitive games like chess or poker. The chimps in the study showed a keen grasp of game theory and outperformed their human counterparts in predicting their opponents’ choices, according to Scientific American. The results suggest chimps have superior memories to and can follow choice patterns better than humans.
This is not the first time chimps have outsmarted humans in certain aptitude tests. They also may have better short-term memories than humans, research from 2013 showed. In the study, a chimpanzee was able to recall the exact sequence and location of a random series of numbers 1 through 9 flashed on a screen, a trait that is extremely rare in humans and typically characterizes people with savant syndrome.