The researchers have discovered that even the three-day-old chicks possess the “mental number lines” ability where the lines go from low numerical values to higher or from left to right, just like humans.
The study was conducted by the scientists at Italy-based University of Padova, Italy.
During a series of experiments, the researchers trained baby chicks for associating with a panel having five dots on it with a treat of food. After the establishment of number-reward relationship, the study group observed the behavior of chicks while they were presented with a panel that was differently numbered.
The chicks were then put in set-ups so that they could select between two cards having plenty of dots other than five. Researchers said that both cards showed the same number of dots at a time, such as two dots or eight at other interval.
The scientists observed that the chicks were more likely to walk to the left card when the two dots are showed on the cards and walk right when the cards showed eight.
According to the scientists, the humans are known for instinctively imagining the numbers as increasing from left to right. However, the cause behind the Mental Number Line (MNL) was not understood or known well.
The study clearly suggests that the inclination are likely to lie deep in our history of evolution, as the birds’ young ones possess the same latent understanding of numerical order.
“They associate small numbers with the left space and larger number with the right space, which resembles greatly to the behavior of humans in responding to the numbers,” Rosa Rugani, study lead author, said.
Rugani further said, “The study’s findings suggest a rethinking of the relation between verbal language and numerical abilities, providing enough evidence that language and culture are not necessary for the development of a mathematical cognition. The spatial mapping of numbers from left to right may be a universal cognitive strategy available soon after birth.”
The findings of the study were published online in the journal Science.