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Koko the gorilla

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mickche
955992.  Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:14 am Reply with quote

I know this has been mentioned a few times over the years on the Qi forums (i.e. hugs). But, i don't think it has been mentioned in the K forum, and i just got sidetracked with this adorable video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQCOHUXmEZg

 
EXE
966566.  Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:18 am Reply with quote

Renowned psychologist and Harvard professor Steven Pinker wrote a section of his (great) book The Language Instinct on attempts to teach primates to sign and basically called it all bunk -- or certainly more limited than the sometimes lofty claims of keepers. He argued that such attempts were rooted in the prejudice that signing is "lower" than spoken language. He further called into question the secrecy of many of these primates' keepers, some of whom refuse to allow outside observers to check the validity of their claims about the animals' knowledge. Pinker also stated that according to fluent ASL signers, many of these animals' keepers interpret ambiguous signs or normal primate movements/gesture as signs in an unconscious (or perhaps conscious) effort to bolster their research. Though admittedly I only know some American Sign Language, I can say that a lot of Koko's signing is VERY unclear to the point where I would be inclined to see it as gesture and not signs.

 
Prime8
989394.  Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:04 pm Reply with quote

I actually just watched a documentary about a Chimpanzee called Nim that was raised by humans and taught sign language. It's a very sad story so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who cares about animals, but it was an interesting subject.

Nim made amazing progress over a 5 year period, being taught by several different teachers. He was able to communicate and have conversations with his keepers, teachers and human family. However, the heartless bastard who ran the "experiment" never looked at Nim as a living being, despite the best intentions from Nim's keepers, teachers and human family. Once Nim had been sold to a medical research lab, the guy came out and said that the experiment was unsuccessful as he believed Nim was merely copying his teachers and claimed that Nim didn't actually understand what he was "saying". His keepers, teachers and human family though have all said that Nim knew exactly what he was saying and even showed footage of themselves conversing with Nim. He was able to communicate and knew many words, although his construction of sentences was very simplistic (things like "Nim want Banana please", "Nim like Cats", etc) but still understandable.

I think both Nim and Koko are much smarter (or were, Nim passed away in 2000) than a lot of people give them credit for. From the footage I've seen of both, as well as other similar cases, the Apes display an understanding of what they're being told and what they themselves are saying.

Another similar study is that of Kanzi the Bonobo (pygmy Chimp). He has learned to communicate with his keepers via a special computer. He has shown that he can understand human language and is able to use his computer to converse with his keepers (and the occasional lucky visitor).

 
priya
989461.  Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:14 am Reply with quote

mickche wrote:
adorable video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQCOHUXmEZg


Sweet. That reminded me of this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8yl2pR1EIM

 

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