In the January issue of Science, arguably the most prestigious scientific publication in the world, a small study on baby chicks suggested a profound connection between these little animals and all human beings: we both think the same way about numbers.
Wondering what that means? OK, try this: imagine the numbers 1 through 10 then pretend someone just asked you to describe where those numbers were in space. You would probably say that the low numbers – 1, 2, 3 – are to your left, and the high numbers – 8, 9, 10 – are to your right. Psychologists refer to this as the “mental number line” and it’s strikingly consistent across many human populations. In fact, there’s evidence that even before we learn to read, write, or count, human babies seem to imagine numbers in this same order, left to right in increasing order.
Turns out, we aren’t alone. Three day old baby chicks – the same kind of chicks who are raised on factory farms for eggs and meat – seem to think of numbers in that same order as human babies and adults!
This isn’t the first evidence that animals and humans share similarities in the way they think about numbers and counting. In fact, animals from chimpanzees to monkeys to farmed animals show many cognitive similarities that bind us together. Most importantly, just like us these animals share the desire to carry out their natural behaviors and live without suffering. We think this fascinating new finding just gives us another reason to include chickens in our circle of compassion.