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   Monkeys Are Better At Problem-Solving Than Humans, Study Finds
   By Natasha Ishak | Edited By Leah Silverman
   Published October 17, 2019

Researchers wonder if the heavy rewarding of habit-based solutions in Western
educational systems are destroying our ability to creatively problem-solve.

   Monkey Playing Computer Game Monkey Playing Computer Game

   Julia Watzek/TwitterIn an experiment involving a problem-solving
   computer game, researchers found that monkeys had better `cognitive
   flexibility' than humans.

   Do you think of yourself as a smart person? Well, according to one
   study, you could still be outsmarted by a monkey.

   According to Live Science, researchers recently tested how well both
   humans and monkeys could perform in a problem-solving computer game and
   found that the monkeys were undeniably better.

   In the experiment, which consisted of humans and 29 monkeys both rhesus
   and capuchin, four squares were first presented on a screen: one
   striped, one spotted, and two blank.

   Players learned that clicking the striped square followed by the
   spotted square would lead to a blue triangle popping up in place of one
   of the blank squares, and subsequently clicking on that blue triangle
   produced a reward -- a little "whoop" sound for the humans and a
   banana-flavored pellet for the monkeys.

   But when the human and monkey participants were presented with a
   shortcut to the reward, only the monkeys seemed to pick up on it,
   thereby displaying a "cognitive flexibility" or problem-solving ability
   that the people seemingly lacked.

   "We are a unique species and have various ways in which we are
   exceptionally different from every other creature on the planet. But
   we're also sometimes really dumb," Julia Watzek, the study's co-author
   and a graduate student in psychology at Georgia State University, said
   in a statement about the study.
   Rhesus Monkey Rhesus Monkey

   PexelsThe study used rhesus and capuchin monkey species, both of which
   immediately took advantage of the shortcut presented to subjects in the

   Seventy percent of the monkeys immediately used the shortcut to click
   the triangle and recieve the reward the first time it was shown to
   them. The humans, on the other hand, continued to repeat the same
   sequence and ignore the shortcut.

   Incredibly, only one person out of the 56 people tested reached for the
   shortcut when it was presented.

   "I am really surprised that the humans, a sizable portion...just keep
   using the same strategy," Watzek told Live Science.

   The authors of this study concluded that educational practices employed
   in Western educational systems may be causing humans to stick to one
   known problem-solving strategy instead of searching for an alternative.

   The paper also noted that things like standardized testing and formal
   schooling could be encouraging "rote repetition" and the "search for a
   single correct solution."

   So, does this mean those untainted by the limitations of Western-style
   schooling fare better when it comes to adapting new strategies for
   problem-solving? Not quite.

   In 2018, a related experiment showed the same human test subjects a
   video of someone else using the shortcut and were told not to "be
   afraid to try something new."

   But even then, when given "permission" to break the rules, roughly 30
   percent of the human participants continued to follow the same pattern
   and ignore the shortcut.

   This same 2018 study included evaluations of cognitive flexibility in
   study participants from the Himba tribe in Namibia and found that 60 to
   70 percent of the Himba tribe subjects still failed to adopt the
   shortcut strategy right away, though they did use it more often than
   their Western-educated counterparts.

   While there certainly needs to be more research to determine whether
   this for sure, these experiments suggest that cognitive inflexibility
   among humans could likely be encouraged by the heavy rewarding of
   habit-based solutions in Western educational systems.

   "If solution strategies are so entrenched that new information is
   ignored, they can lead us to make inefficient decisions and miss
   opportunities," the paper's authors wrote.

   An advantage that human participants did show in this latest study,
   however, was that they took less time to pick up the rules of the
   computer game than the monkeys.

   Researchers believe that this difference in learning curve may
   contribute to the monkey's ease in bending the rules later in the
   experiment, but they can't say for sure without more precise studies on
   the matter.

   The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was conducted
   by researchers at Georgia State University.

   Whatever the case may be, this likely won't be the last we hear about
   the debate over monkey versus human, even though we could be more
   similar to each other than we think.

   Next, read about the controversial experiment by Chinese scientists who
   injected monkeys with genes from the human brain and explore Japan's
   Jigokudani Monkey Park, where snow monkeys go to hot tub.
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   Natasha Ishak Natasha Ishak
   Natasha Ishak

   Natasha Ishak is a staff writer at All That's Interesting.
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