1. Joined
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    20 Jun '09 12:511 edit
    It has been found that many animals including the more primitive ones have independently evolved to have some rudimentary arithmetic abilities such as being able to distinguish between 1 and 2 and also between 2 and 3 …up to about 5 or 6 and to precisely identify very small numbers and also being able to estimate the ratios between very large numbers:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20227131.600-animals-that-count-how-numeracy-evolved.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=magcontents

    So performing these tasks must (perhaps surprisingly?) often give many kinds of animals including the more primitive ones a significant survival advantage.
  2. Cape Town
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    20 Jun '09 19:48
    Originally posted by Andrew Hamilton
    It has been found that many animals including the more primitive ones have independently evolved to have some rudimentary arithmetic abilities such as being able to distinguish between 1 and 2 and also between 2 and 3 …up to about 5 or 6 and to precisely identify very small numbers and also being able to estimate the ratios between very large numbers ...[text shortened]... n give many kinds of animals including the more primitive ones a significant survival advantage.
    I would expect the ability to distinguish between 1 and 2 to be trivial for almost all animals. Identifying the ability in them is the hard part. What might be less common is abstracting the concept such that you can teach an animal to indicate 'one' or 'many' regardless of the type of object. I suspect though that all mammals have enough brain power to be able to tell the difference between one, two and three and maybe even more.
  3. Joined
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    20 Jun '09 20:37
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I would expect the ability to distinguish between 1 and 2 to be trivial for almost all animals. Identifying the ability in them is the hard part. What might be less common is abstracting the concept such that you can teach an animal to indicate 'one' or 'many' regardless of the type of object. I suspect though that all mammals have enough brain power to be able to tell the difference between one, two and three and maybe even more.
    …I would expect the ability to distinguish between 1 and 2 to be trivial for almost all animals.
    (my emphasis)

    Well I think studies have shown that they generally do.
    We may find that a trivial task but that’s maybe because there may be specialised areas of the brain that help us to do this task? Are there specialised areas of the brain of animals that help them to do this task? -perhaps a neurologist could shed light on this? -I know that there is some evidence that there are specialised areas of the brain that help us to do only slightly more complex tasks than this. For example:

    http://www.mathematicalbrain.com/reviews.html

    “…Signora Gaddi suffered a stroke that damaged the left parietal lobe of her brain. Since then, she has become largely hopeless with arithmetic. She cannot read, write, compare or calculate with any numbers other than one, two, three and four. Even with numbers below four, she is definitely not performing normally. For instance, when shown two wooden blocks, she has to laboriously count on her fingers in order to establish their numerosity. Because Signora Gaddi performs NORMALLY on many OTHER tests that do NOT involve numbers, her affliction can be described as a SELECTIVE loss of arithmetic….”(my emphasis)
  4. Cape Town
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    22 Jun '09 09:51
    Originally posted by Andrew Hamilton
    Well I think studies have shown that they generally do.
    We may find that a trivial task but that’s maybe because there may be specialised areas of the brain that help us to do this task? Are there specialised areas of the brain of animals that help them to do this task? -perhaps a neurologist could shed light on this? -I know that there is some evid ...[text shortened]... are specialised areas of the brain that help us to do only slightly more complex tasks than this
    I think the ability to tell the difference between a single entity and multiple entities, or even get a rough feel for quantity (such as the difference between 2 and 10) would be a natural outcome of basic intelligence. I am fairly sure that most pack animals can tell when they are outnumbered by a rival pack, and most hunting animals can judge things like the size of their prey and the threat to their safety when their pray gangs up on them. To abstract this into counting is another story.
    But I am not convinced that the ability to do the above is direct evidence of the benefit of the ability, but rather is an outcome of basic intelligence - which is nevertheless a survival advantage.
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