Bees join list of animals with ability to perform basic arithmetic

Rodiano Bonacci
Febbraio 8, 2019

"Thus, our "bee school" within the Y-maze allowed the bees to learn how to use arithmetic operators to add or subtract". An global team, led by researchers from RMIT University in Australia, taught bees to associate certain colors with the concepts of addition and subtraction. Indeed, current methods like deep learning typically require a large number of learning events to solve new problems, but the bees were able to do it with surprising efficiency.

The study was led by a team from RMIT University in Melbourne, and it showed that bees not only have the brain capacity to do basic math, but they can be also taught to recognize different colors as representations for adding and subtracting.

Associate Professor Dyer said numerical operations like addition and subtraction were complex because they required two levels of processing.

Why this is important is that arithmetic-even simple addition and subtraction-requires two levels of processing in the brain, one requiring the bees to understand the numerical values while the second requires the bees to work with the numbers mentally in their working memory to find the correct answer. Clint Perry, who studies invertebrate intelligence at the Bee Sensory and Behavioral Ecology Lab at Queen Mary University of London tells George Dvorsky at Gizmodo that he's not convinced by the research, and he had similar qualms about the study that suggested bees can understand the concept of zero. They also believe that the study can help improve rapid learning by incorporating new ways of interactions between long-term rules and working memory into designs.

Whether animals can know or learn numerical and mathematical skills has been debated for quite some time. However, scientists have learned that many species can determine the differences between quantities, make decisions and solve problems. "In a free-flying environment, individual bees used this information to solve unfamiliar problems involving adding or subtracting one element from a group of elements". Now the new research published in the journal Science Advances suggests honeybees can do basic math too.

At the maze's entrance, the researchers placed a sample visual stimulus consisting of between one and five shapes, which were either yellow (to represent subtraction) or blue (to represent addition).

After viewing the initial number of shapes, the bee would fly into a "decision chamber", where it could choose to fly to the left or right branch of the maze after looking at two more sets of shapes.

More shapes presented at the mouth of each fork represented the correct and incorrect answer to the problem.

A scientist we spoke to, however, agrees that bees are smart but found the new evidence unconvincing.

At first, the bees made random choices, but they eventually worked out the problem. After 100 learning trials requiring between four to seven hours of training, all 14 honeybees involved in the experiment learned that blue meant plus-one and yellow meant minus-1.

Although the ability to perform arithmetic like adding and subtracting is not simple, it is vital in human societies.

"Our findings show that the complex understanding of maths symbols as a language is something that many brains can probably achieve", she said. This means journalists are losing the ability to hold the rich and powerful to account.

Real, independent, investigative journalism is in alarming decline. Many publications facing an uncertain future can no longer afford to fund it.

We do not charge or put articles behind a paywall.

Altre relazioniGrafFiotech

Discuti questo articolo

Segui i nostri GIORNALE