Chimpanzees possess a basic understanding of probability, according to several studies. One experiment involved presenting the apes with two opaque cups, one of which contained food. The cups were then moved behind a screen and swapped around. The animals guessed the correct cup more often than could simply be explained by chance. The chimpanzees also learnt a game of chance in which they had to choose which of two flashing coloured lights to turn off. If correct, they received a reward. The apes were able to learn the game and made better-than-chance guesses, indicating they understood basic rules of probability.

# Research Shows that Chimpanzees have the Ability to Understand Basic Rules of Probability

Have you ever played a game of chance or guessed the outcome of an event? If so, you have used your knowledge of probability to make predictions. Probability is the study of the likelihood of events occurring, and it is a fundamental concept in mathematics and statistics. It turns out that chimpanzees, our closest evolutionary relatives, also possess a basic understanding of probability.

Several studies have demonstrated that chimpanzees can make probabilistic inferences, although to what extent they are able to do so is still up for debate. For example, in one study, researchers presented chimpanzees with two opaque cups, one of which contained a piece of food. The researchers then moved both cups behind a screen and swapped the position of the cups. The chimpanzees were able to guess the correct cup more often than could be explained by chance alone, suggesting that they were taking into account the probability of the food being in a particular cup.

In another study, researchers taught chimpanzees about a game of chance in which a computer would flash two lights, one red and one blue. The chimpanzees had to choose which light would turn off while the other remained on. If they chose the correct light, they would receive a reward. The researchers found that the chimpanzees were able to learn the game and make better than chance guesses, suggesting they understood the basic rules of probability.

However, some researchers remain skeptical. They argue that the performance of the chimpanzees might be due to simpler cognitive processes, such as visual memory or the ability to track the positions of objects. They also suggest that the chimpanzees might not fully grasp the underlying mathematical concepts of probability, but are instead using learned associations between certain cues and rewards.

Despite the debate, these studies provide evidence that chimpanzees possess at least a rudimentary ability to make probabilistic inferences. This is intriguing because it suggests that this cognitive ability evolved before humans and chimpanzees diverged on the evolutionary tree.

## FAQs

### What is probability?

Probability is the study of the likelihood of events occurring.

### How do we use probability?

We use probability to make predictions about events. For example, we might use probability to estimate the chances of it raining tomorrow or to guess the outcome of a game of chance.

### Why study probability in chimpanzees?

Studying probability in chimpanzees provides insight into the evolution of cognitive abilities. It also helps us better understand the cognitive abilities of our closest evolutionary relatives and sheds light on the origins of human cognition.

### Do all primates have the ability to understand probability?

The extent to which other primates can understand probability is still an area of active research. Some studies suggest that other primates, such as capuchin monkeys, may also possess a basic understanding of probability. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.