In a breakthrough for both cognitive studies and human-primate schoolyard relations, scientists have successfully managed to teach a group of chimpanzees the rules of Rock Paper Scissors.
A team, led by researchers from Kyoto University in Japan, has demonstrated that chimps are capable of grasping the relationship between the three hand signals of the gestural game.
Seven chimps of various ages were chosen from the university’s Primate Research Institute, and presented with a computer-controlled series of tests. Instead of actually making the hand signals themselves, the chimps were given a pair of illustrated options on a screen, and had to choose the winning hand – paper beating rock, rock beating scissors and scissors beating paper.
The chimps undertook 48 trials a session, three sessions per day. The researchers first displayed only rock-paper pairs, and when the chimps reached a score of 90% correct responses, they changed this to only rock-scissors, then scissors-paper. Once they’d proven an understanding of the basic pairings, the chimps were given sessions where all three hands were mixed. In each session, if the correct option were chosen, the computer would chime and drop an apple slice. If the wrong option were chosen, a buzzer would sound and no food would be given. See related Tinder for Orangutans: Teaching apes to swipe right‘Drunken monkey’ theory backed up by boozy chimpsScientists read monkey minds to draw eerily accurate portraitsFive of the seven chimps managed to finish their training, after an average of 307 training sessions. As well as pictures of chimpanzee hands, the animals were also shown pictures of human hands, which they also managed to comprehend. Interestingly, of the three pairings it was the final option, scissors-paper, that the chimps had most difficulty understanding.