Chimp Challenge at Edinburgh Zoo

We’re used to thinking of ourselves as smarter than other animals, but sometimes it looks like even chimpanzees can outsmart us.

A while ago, Justin Quillinan and I set up the Chimp Challenge. We were interested in a study by Inoue & Matsuzawa which demonstrated the amazing visual processing abilities of a chimpanzee named Ayumu. Ayumu played a game where he saw 9 numbers flash on a screen for 210 milliseconds. Apparently, he has no problem in remembering he location of each while humans find this very difficult. Now you can try this game for yourself at an interactive exhibit in Edinburgh Zoo. Get yourselves along to the Living Links site at the zoo and help us find out more about this phenomenon. Maybe you can beat Ayumu’s score?

The Chimp Challenge at Edinburgh Zoo

Inoue, S., & Matsuzawa, T. (2007). Working memory of numerals in chimpanzees Current Biology, 17 (23) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.10.027

The QHImp Qhallenge: Testing the semantic hypothesis

A few weeks ago we launched the QHImp Qhallenge to see if chimpanzees really did have better working memories than humans.  The results showed that humans were better than previously thought, but still not up to the level of chimps.  Now we’ve extended the QHImp Qhallenge to test Matsuzawa’s theory that semantic links are overloading our working memory and making the task difficult.  You can now play the QHImp Qhallenge with letters of the alphabet, novel symbols, shades of colour and directional arrows.  We’ll be comparing performance on these tasks to the numeral task to see if fewer semantic links make the task easier.

Click here to play the QHImp Qhallenge!

QHImp Qhallenge: Results on day 1

Earlier today we released an experiment on working memory in humans and chimps.  You can play the game here.

We’ve had responses from about 70 people, and we have some results.  Some are summarised on the live results page.

Astoundingly, people actually managed to get 9 numbers shown for only 210 ms!  Replicated Typo’s very own James Winters was one of those mavericks, but puts it down to luck.

There were some early leaders, but in the last few hours, the player known as ‘mjb’ has really kicked everybody’s ass and got to the top of all three leaderboards.  Who are you, magic human?  Let us know!

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The QHImp Qhallenge: Working memory in humans and Chimpanzees

Do you have a better memory than a chimp?  Tetsuro Matsuzawa demonstrated the amazing working memory abilities of Chimpanzees, but maybe humans can be just as good, with enough practice.  Justin Quillinan and I present the Quick-Hold Improvement Challenge (or QHImp Qhallenge).  Play our game and find out if you can beat a chimpanzee.

Play the game here.

You can see the results update live here.  Results so far are tantalizing: Replicated Typo’s very own James Winters has already reached the Ayumu benqhmark (9 numbers viewed for only 209 milliseconds)!

skip to Game instructions


Tetsuro Matsuzawa presented his work on chimpanzees in a plenary talk at Evolang.  Matsuzawa covered several very interesting experiments and findings, including an experiment into the working memory of chimpanzees.  Ayumu is a chimpanzee who was trained to recognise Arabic numerals on a touch-screen and press them in sequence.  The most impressive aspect was that Ayumu could complete the task even when the numbers were only displayed for 210 milliseconds before being masked (the ‘eidetic memory task’ or ‘limited-hold’ memory task, Inoue & Matsuzawa, 2007):

You can see more videos of this at the Friends and Ai website.

Continue reading “The QHImp Qhallenge: Working memory in humans and Chimpanzees”