For long humans have thought to be the only species on earth with the intelligence to understand highly abstract concept. But this latest research has proved us all wrong Researchers from Australian and French universities have trained bees to recognize images with the smallest number of elements. The bees showed that they understood the concept of zero. This is surprising for an insect that has less than a million neurons, when the human brain contains 86 billion.
The bee is an interesting model for studying the intelligence of insects: they learn from each other and understand abstract concepts like similarity and difference. But their intelligence does not stop there, as shown in an article in Science, which describes the work of researchers from the Royal Institute of Technology in Melbourne (Australia) and the University of Toulouse.
The bees were trained to choose, between two images, the one that had the least elements. During the test, they were rewarded with a sweet solution. Thus, between images with three or four elements, the bees had to choose the image with three elements. If the researchers presented an image without an element and one with one or more, the bees understood that zero was the smallest number.
Bees therefore understand the mathematical concept of zero, which is not so obvious, as Adrian Dyer, one of the authors, explains in a statement: “Zero is a difficult concept to comprehend and a mathematical skill that does not come easil. It takes several years for children to learn it! He adds, “We have long believed that only humans have the intelligence to get the concept, but recent research has shown that monkeys and birds have the brains for this. What we did not know – until now – is if insects can also understand zero. ”
If small brains can include abstract concepts, this opens up new possibilities for developing artificial intelligences. This work could also help to understand how a brain represents the concept of zero.