Spontaneous spatial mapping of learned sequence in chimpanzees: evidence for a SNARC-like effect

PLoS One. 2014 Mar 18;9(3):e90373. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090373. eCollection 2014.


In the last couple of decades, there has been a growing number of reports on space-based representation of numbers and serial order in humans. In the present study, to explore evolutionary origins of such representations, we examined whether our closest evolutionary relatives, chimpanzees, map an acquired sequence onto space in a similar way to humans. The subjects had been trained to perform a number sequence task in which they touched a sequence of "small" to "large" Arabic numerals presented in random locations on the monitor. This task was presented in sessions that also included test trials consisting of only two numerals (1 and 9) horizontally arranged. On half of the trials 1 was located to the left of 9, whereas on the other half 1 was to the right to 9. The Chimpanzees' performance was systematically influenced by the spatial arrangement of the stimuli; specifically, they responded quicker when 1 was on the left and 9 on the right compared to the other way around. This result suggests that chimpanzees, like humans, spontaneously map a learned sequence onto space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Pan troglodytes / physiology*
  • Pan troglodytes / psychology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis

Grant support

This research was financially supported by Grant-in-Aids for Specially Promoted Research: No. 24000001 (PI: Tetsuro Matsuzawa), for Scientific Research (S): No. 23220006 (PI: Masaki Tomonaga) and for Young Scientists (B): No. 25730093 (Ikuma Adachi). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.