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Girl Chimps Learn Faster Than Boys

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"Girls are often considered to mature faster than boys. The same appears to be true among chimpanzees, according to new research to be published in the journal Animal Behavior. Elizabeth Lonsdorf of Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, observed young chimps in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, along with their mothers over a period of four years. She found young female chimps tended to watch intently as their mothers fished termites out of earthen nest mounds using sticks. As a result, young females mastered the technique at about a year and a half old. Males, on the other hand, paid little attention to the finer points of termite fishing. As a result, they needed about two years longer to acquire this skill. The findings are supported by Lonsdorf's preliminary research on captive chimps at the zoo. " (California Wild This Week) The New York Times

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This is an interesting

This is an interesting finding, but it could mean different things. It's possible that female chimps learn faster than males. But it may also be that females are more interested in termite fishing than males. Thus, they pay attention more and therefore learn sooner. Even adult male chimps fish less than females, so that would support the point of less interest in males.

It would take more study to compare tasks in which males and females were equally motivated to learn in order to tease out what's really happening. There's no question that males and females have different types of personalities and this leads to different interests.

I think a big part of it is motivation. But scientific studies are rarely designed to take this issue into consideration.