Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Absolute Number Discrimination

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1097-1

Number plays a continuous role in humans’ everyday interactions – for many, our early morning routine may involve checking the temperature outside to know whether to grab a jacket on our way out the door, or checking our pockets for correct change to grab a coffee. Likewise, number is also an important function for nonhuman animals in their daily existence – knowing how much food is available, how many offspring one has, or how many predators are approaching are all useful survival skills that may be assessed through the use of numerical discrimination.

Counting in humans is defined as a formal process of enumeration in which each item in an array must be given a unique tag (Piaget 1952). When counting is referred to colloquially in research with nonhuman animals, it is generally referring instead to simple numerical discrimination, as opposed to formal number systems or mathematical ability (the exception to this are studies which explicitly study whether animals are able to...


Approximate Number System (ANS) File System Object Analog Magnitude System Nonhuman Animals Female Lions 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern UniversityLondonCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Mark A. Krause
    • 1
  1. 1.Southern Oregon UniversityAshlandUSA