Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Toddlers Outwit Chimps in Cognitive Study

WASHINGTON -- It's official: Your toddler is smarter than a chimp, at least some of the time.

A study comparing the abilities of human toddlers to chimpanzees and orangutans found that 2-year-old children have social learning skills superior to the apes, researchers said Thursday.

In one social learning test, a researcher showed the children and apes how to pop open a plastic tube to get food or a toy contained inside. The children observed and imitated the solution. Chimpanzees and orangutans, however, tried to smash open the tube or yank out the contents with their teeth.

European scientists gave a battery of cognitive tests lasting three to five hours separately to 105 children, 106 chimpanzees and 32 orangutans over two weeks.

"Using these multiple tests allows us to pinpoint where are the similarities and where are the differences," researcher Josep Call of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany told reporters.

The researchers believe their findings provide insight into the evolution of human cognition. People's brains are three times larger than those of their closest primate relatives.

Chimpanzees and orangutans are among the great apes. Chimps are considered the closest genetic relatives to people, with orangutans a bit more distantly related.

The researchers found that the children were far more advanced than the chimps and orangutans in understanding nonverbal communications, copying another person's solution to a problem and understanding the intentions of others.

The apes were closer to the toddlers in some other tests like those measuring "physical cognitive skills," involving things like quantities and causality, the researchers found.