As it turns out, humans aren’t the only creature that naturally counts from left to right — baby chicks do it too, a new study has found.
Scientists noticed that the chicks would put smaller numbers on the left and larger numbers on the right, just like humans, although they aren’t sure why that is, according to a Business Standard report.
Rosa Rugani, a psychologist at the University of Padova in Italy, led a team in attempting to understand the mental representation in numbers for the study by training chicks that were just three days old to move around a screen panel with five dots on it in order to be rewarded with food behind it, according to the report.
The chicks eventually learned that the five-dot panel meant food, and researchers removed the panel and then placed the chicks in front of two panels, one on the left and one on the right, which had two dots apiece.
Chicks opted to go to the left panel instead of the right, indicating that the chicks appear to see numbers smaller than five as to the left of five. When the researchers used two panels with eight dots, the chicks headed to the panel on the right.
In another experiment, researchers once again repeated the process, but started with a 20-dot panel, and then alternated between panels that had eight and 32 dots. The chicks headed left when an eight-dot screen was placed there, but then to the right when it was a 32-dot screen.
Because they associate small numbers with the left side and larger numbers with the right, they react accordingly, showing they have they same mental approach to number ordering as humans.
The findings may provide insight into the nature of evolution itself, and could suggest that the mental representation of numbers emerged eons ago and became an ingrained feature for all creatures.