Humans possess many cognitive abilities not seen in other animals, such as a full-blown language capacity as well as reasoning and planning abilities. Despite these differences, however, it has been difficult to identify specific mental capacities that distinguish humans from other animals. Researchers have now discovered that humans have a much better memory to recognize and remember sequential information.
The natural number system comes to mind.
“We found that the limited capacities of non-human animals can be explained by a simpler kind of memory that does not faithfully represent sequential information. Using a mathematical model, we show that this simpler memory explains the results from animal experiments,” says Stefano Ghirlanda, lead author of the study and Professor of psychology at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.
This research can explain why no language-trained animal has successfully mastered sequential aspects of language, such as the difference between “the dog bit the lady” and “the lady bit the dog.” The researchers’ hypothesize that, some time during human prehistory, the capacity to recognize and remember sequences of stimuli evolved, supporting the later evolution of human-level language, planning, and reasoning. Paper.
(public access) – Johan Lind et al. Memory for stimulus sequences: a divide between humans and other animals? Royal Society Open Science, June 2017 More.
See also: Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away What animals can do (what they cannot do is medicine):