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date: 08 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Monkeys are mathematicians, albeit imprecise ones. Comparative research has illustrated that monkeys use quantitative and numerical information, and this chapter outlines many of those findings. We begin with an historical summary of work with primates in assessing the role that number plays in these animals’ lives. We then focus on the question of whether primates can count and can use symbols to represent numerical information. Evidence for counting is limited, but they can make judgments of ordered magnitudes, and they can learn to associate symbols with various quantities and numbers of items. They do this through a form of analogue magnitude estimation in which increasingly larger numbers of items are represented less and less precisely. They do this using many of the same neural structures that underlie varying types of numerical competence in humans, thereby illustrating an evolutionary progression of mathematical skills in the order Primates.

Keywords: monkeys, numerical judgments, quantity comparisons, counting, approximate number system, analogue magnitude estimation, summation, ordinality, parietal cortex

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