Chimps Outscore People At Strategy Games

If you thought we humans are the ultimate supreme species in terms of intelligence, and no other species can come close to us, well, you’re in for a surprise – some recent experiments carried out by the California Institute of Technology demonstrated that chimps are actually better at some intelligence-related actions than us. The experiments in question had some chimpanzees play some strategy video games, and when the researchers compared the results of the chimps against the results of a team of human subjects, their amazement was anything but small – the chimps won by far. So, how is this even possible?

The Experiment 

Chimps Outscore People At Strategy Games

In order to test the intelligence of the chimps, the researchers at the California Institute of Technology came up with a simple strategy video game named Inspection Game. The game is fairly simple – two chimps sit back to back, each having a computer in front of them; on the computer screen, there are two boxes, one on the left and one on the right. Each chimp has to select one square, after which it is shown the selection of his opponent. It gets interesting, though: in each rounds, one of the chimps is the matcher, meaning that it has to correctly guess the selection of the other chimp, while in other rounds one is the mismatcher, meaning that it will have to choose the opposite of what the other chimp chose. In both cases, the chimp with the best results won a reward at the end of the 200-round match.

The part that totally blew the researchers away was just how close the chimps came to reaching the Nash equilibrium.

Nash Equilibrium Explained   

The Nash Equilibrium is a concept, encountered mostly in economics, which occurs when a party cannot obtain any benefits by changing its strategy while the other party’s strategy remains the same. In this case, coming close to reaching the Nash Equilibrium meant that the chimps managed to predict each other’s strategies so accurate that they didn’t have many options on how to change them, without their opponents figuring it out and adapting to it. Even when researchers had the roles switched, the chimps were quick to adapt and came close to reaching the Nash equilibrium again.

In the experiment, the chimps came much close to reaching this equilibrium, while the human teams were nowhere near of doing so. This indicates that the chimps not only have better short-term memory than us people, considering that they adapted to each other’s strategies much faster than the human teams, but were also a lot more competitive, as opposed to the human teams which are significantly more cooperative.

The Implications

Chimps Outscore People At Strategy Games

Having chimps beating us at this simple strategy video game tells us a few things about our species. The first, and maybe most important think, is that we might be overthinking everything – the human subjects were most likely trying to figure out what was happening in their opponent’s minds, trying to predict their moves and adapt to them before they even made them, thus cooperating with their opponents by making is easier for them to win, without even realizing it, while the chimps were just keeping it simple – “I see what he did, I’m doing it better.” Basically, while the human teams tried to accommodate for each other, just as we do in society, the chimps made it simple by having the best chimp win. This indicates that, despite their good memory and already-proven intelligence, they may still be far from being as evolved as we are simply because they wouldn’t be able to tolerate each other very much if some payoffs were involved.

Additional video game tests in which chimps took place demonstrated once again that their memory is better than ours, with chimps finishing some mazes faster than their human counterparts, without any outside help, while the human subjects tried to obtain help from the study supervisors.

Summing it up, these series of test demonstrated that, while they’re not a threat at our statute of “the most intelligent beings alive”, chimps are far more advanced and far more competitive than any other animals. At the moment our title is safe, but on the long run… who knows?

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