Chicks even as younger as just three days have the “mental number lines” ability as possessed by humans, the researchers said.
The study, which was conducted by the scientists at the University of Padova, Italy, found that the chicks were able to count the lines, going from left to right or from low numerical values to higher.
For the study, the baby chicks were trained for getting associated with a panel containing five dots with a treat of food. Once the number-reward link was established, the researchers observed the chicks’ behavior while they were presented before the panel that was differently numbered.
The participating chicks were then exposed before set-ups so that they could make selection between two cards, with one showing plenty of dots and other just five. According to the researchers, both cards showed the same number of dots at a time.
The chicks were found more likely walking towards the left when the cards having two dots were showed, while they walked right when the cards showed eight.
The researchers said that the humans are best known for intuitive number imagination when increased from left to right. But, the cause behind the Mental Number Line (MNL) was either not understood or well known.
The study’s findings clearly indicates that the inclination are likely to lie deep in the history of human evolution, just because the young ones of birds possess the similar latent understanding of numerical order as that of humans.
Study lead author Rosa Rugani said, “The small numbers are associated with the left space and the larger numbers with the right space. This indicates greatly to the humans’ behavior in responding to the numbers.”
“The results indicate a rethinking of the association between verbal language and numerical abilities which provide evidence that language and culture are not necessary for the development of a mathematical cognition,” Rugani said while adding, “The spatial mapping of numbers from left to right may be a universal cognitive strategy available soon after birth.”
The study’s findings were detailed in the journal Science.