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Study: Chimpanzee is better at games than young kids

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You may think your kindergartener is pretty proficient at Mario or Angry Birds, but we’ve got some sobering news. Your kid can’t hold a candle to Cheetah.

A study in the American Journal of Primatology finds that chimpanzees are actually better at games than the average 3-6 year old.

Researchers in the study looked at how four adult chimps did against 12 human children, whose ages ranged from 3 to 12 years old. Four adult humans also took part in the study, which had them attempt to complete a complex maze in a virtual-reality style game.

The chimpanzees and kids between 3 and 6 years old completed the maze in roughly the same amount of time. (Results were measured in terms of how much distance players traversed before completing the maze.)

But, in news that makes The Planet of the Apes sound eerily close to reality, Panzee, a 22-year old chimp, beat the pants off of all 12 kids -- and the four adults -- on the more complex mazes, taking a significantly shorter route to the end.

Even more embarrassing for our species? The humans tried to cheat.

“The humans would ask me for answers, but I would tell them, 'I can’t give the chimps answers,'” said Francine Dolins, a primatologist at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and first author on the study.

It’s possible, though, that the apes might have had a bit of an advantage themselves.

Three of the four chimps that took part in the study have been trained from a young age to use a Lexigram board, which uses symbols to represent words. When a chimp presses the symbol, the word is spoken aloud by a computer.

That gave them a sense of landmarks, say researchers, which could have come in handy in the game.

So will we ever go up against Panzee or one of her kind in a game of Battlefield or an MMO?

“If you gave a chimp who liked doing the task enough time, maybe,” said Dolins. “They’re curious, and intrinsically motivated to find more information about the world.”

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