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Baby Chicks May Count From Left To Right Like Humans, Study Indicates

Counting Baby Chickens

A newly published study suggests humans aren’t the only ones who can count, as baby chickens seem to also have a sense of numbers.

Scientists realized that chicks appear to count upward, from left to right, and that they put smaller numbers on the left and larger numbers on the right, which CBS News noted in a report is “the same mental representation of the number line that humans use.” The report quoted the study’s lead author Rosa Rugani, a psychologist at the University of Padova in Italy as having said that the study’s results suggested “a rethinking of the relationship between numerical abilities and verbal language.”

Our results suggest a rethinking of the relationship between numerical abilities and verbal language, providing further evidence that language and culture are not necessary for the development of a mathematical cognition

To explain the mental number line, National Geographic reports that if you imagine the numbers between 1 and 10 and you’re like “the vast majority of people, you just automatically pictured a row of digits, starting with 1 on the left and ascending to 10 on the right. This is the mental number line.” The report indicates that until recently, this trait seemed to be unique to humans, but the University of Padova’s clever experiment seems to indicate otherwise.

This experiment began in 2007 when Rugani first placed the domestic chicks and Clark’s nutcrackers in front of a row of sixteen objects and trained them to peck at the fourth one. When she rotated the row of objects from so that it ran horizontally instead of vertically, the baby birds mostly pecked the fourth object from the left which indicated that they were counting from left to right.

National Geographic indicates that while they might have a mental number line, they could just have a preference towards objects in the left side of space. This bias, who humans also have, is called pseudoneglect.

Do you think these little chicks are doing what researchers think they’re doing, counting like humans do?

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