Study: Apes could make competent bartenders
Source: The Spirits Business
by Nicola Carruthers
15th August, 2016
An ape in Sweden has demonstrated human-level flavour prediction abilities by memorising cocktail ingredients, according to a recent study.
By providing a captive orangutan with its own personal cocktail bar, a group of researchers found that large primates exhibit a type of taste memory thought to be unique to humans.
In a new study published in the Animal Cognition journal, researchers at Lund University in Sweden offered Naong, a male orangutan at a Swedish Zoo, three distinct tasting juices – cherry, rhubarb and lemon – as well as cider apple vinegar.
Each in a small bottle on a table adjacent to his cage, Naong accessed the juices using a straw. He learned their flavours, and also the flavour of every possible pairing of the liquids mixed for him by a personal bartender.
The researchers found that Naong not only remembered the flavour of each combination, but could predict whether combinations he had never tasted before would taste pleasant.
Gabriela-Alina Sauciuc of Lund University told New Scientist: “It has been considered that only humans can [make predictions in this way], but we challenged this and showed that an orangutan was able to predict whether never-before-experienced mixes would taste good or bad, and that he could do this as well as 10 human ‘control’ subjects.”
To ensure that it wasn’t colour he preferred, the researchers repeated the experiment using dyes to alter the natural colour of each juice, but it was still the taste rather than the colour that he chose.
Naong stuck with his favourites 88% of the time when offered them in three further rounds of trials.
The study illustrates that it is not just humans who can use prior experiences to predict what will happen in new situations, a ability called “affective forecasting”.
In 2014, researchers at Santa Fe College discovered that chimps and gorillas first developed a taste for alcohol more than 10 million years ago.