Arithmetic Reasoning In Animals

The research described above addresses the ability of nonhuman animals to form numerical categories. As eloquently articulated by Gallistel and Gelman (2000), animals might be expected to reason arithmetically because this would aid the many calculations for which continuous and discrete variables need to be combined. For example, it could be useful to multiply item size by number when deciding between a patch of three large food items and six tiny food items. Similarly, when faced with a decision between two food patches, it would be profitable to calculate the rate of return as defined by the number of food items divided by some unit of time. These calculations are greatly facilitated if discrete quantities are represented in the same currency as continuous quantities such as time and surface area. Below we review the evidence that animals reason arithmetically.

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