Bees are able to develop simple mathematical operations, such as addition or subtraction, according to a study published by the journal “Science Advances” that focuses on understanding the relationship between brain size and brain power, experimenting with these small insects.
This discovery, which implies that mathematics does not require a large brain, could be an open door for the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), especially to improve rapid learning processes, according to a statement from the RMIT University of Melbourne, Australia.
Researchers say that performing mathematical operations requires a fairly sophisticated cognitive level since they interact long-term memory, which is the one that contains the rules of addition and subtraction, and short-term, which is responsible for manipulating the numbers of a particular operation.
Many non-human species are able to understand the differences between quantities and apply them to solve everyday problems, but solving arithmetic operations requires a more complex level of brain processing.
The study starts from the basis that bees understand the concept of zero (0), as has already been demonstrated, and consists of teaching them to recognize colors as symbolic addition and subtraction representations so that they can use this information to solve mathematical problems.
The bees were trained in a labyrinth, where upon entering they saw between 1 and 5 forms of blue (addition) or yellow (subtraction). Then they had to fly to a “decision chamber”, where they decided whether to turn left or right. In the end, they received positive stimuli when they went to the right side, or negative ones when they flew to the wrong one.
At the beginning of the experiment, the bees made random decisions but, thanks to the stimuli, they finally learned that blue meant +1 and yellow -1, so they were able to solve the problem.
In addition, bees are not the only non-human species capable of adding and subtracting. Other studies have indicated that some primates, birds, and even spiders have this ability.