Symbol-value association and discrimination in the archerfish. Academic Article uri icon


  • One of the most important aspects of mathematical cognition in humans is the ability to symbolically represent magnitudes and quantities. In the last 20 years it has been shown that not only humans but also other primates, birds and dolphins can use symbolic representation of quantities. However, it remains unclear to what extent this ability is spread across the animal kingdom. Here, by training archerfish to associate variable amounts of rewards with different geometric shapes, we show for the first time that lower vertebrates can also associate a value with a symbol and make a decision that maximizes their food intake based on this information. In addition, the archerfish is able to understand up to four different quantities and organize them mentally in an ordinal manner, similar to observations in higher vertebrates. These findings point in the direction of the existence of an …

publication date

  • January 1, 2017