By: Natalie Crofts, KSL
PASADENA, Calif. - Chimpanzees are better at a computer strategy game than humans, a new study found.
In a digital version of hide-and-seek called the "inspection game," chimps from the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute consistently outperformed humans, according to the study from Caltech
. The chimps quickly learned how to play the game and could predict what their opponents would do, researchers said.
“It seems like they're keeping better track of their opponents' previous choices,” lead author Colin Camerer told the Los Angeles Times
. “You can see, compared to the human subjects, they're just more responsive. They're keeping better ‘minds' on what their opponents are doing.”
The inspection game is derived from game theory
, which is a study of strategic interactions. Players sat back to back and were given the option of selecting one of two blue squares on a screen. One player, the "matcher," was rewarded for selecting the same square as their opponent, while the other player, the "mismatcher," was rewarding for choosing the opposite square.
In the study, the chimps always competed against chimps while humans competed against humans. The game was repeated 200 times, with chimps being rewarded with a chunk of apple when they won and humans being presented with a small coin. Then researchers compared the performance of the two species.
Humans slowly learned to predict their opponents choices but did not play optimally, researchers wrote. In contrast, the chimps learned quickly and matched the level of optimal play for game theory created by mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr.
"Chimps are really good at adjusting and gaining a competitive edge if there is a little bit of a slip by their opponent, until generally they are both balanced," Camerer told USA TODAY
Six chimps participated in the study. Their results were first compared to a group of 16 Japanese men, and then to a group of 12 men from Bossou, Guinea. Both groups of humans performed at similar levels and were unable to match the performance of the chimps, according to the study.
Researchers speculated the chimps may have performed better because they have good short-term memories and because language, which is key to human strategy, was not a factor in the game.
"We're better at a lot more complicated situations where language is often useful," Camerer told USA Today.
Another theory is that chimps play on a simple level, while humans tend to overthink the game.
The study was published in Scientific Reports.
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