Anonim

Perhaps it will not happen that a thousand chimpanzees pounding on a thousand typewriters can produce "The Divine Comedy", but a step forward has been made by their baboon cousins; for now I'm able to distinguish the letters on a computer screen, but who knows if in the future …

In an experiment published in the journal Science, a group of French researchers put some baboons in front of a computer screen with sequences of letters (see the video at the bottom of the page). The sequences themselves could have a meaning (they were real words) or be without them: they were random combinations of English letters.

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In the mind of a chimpanzee

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Everyone at school
After a period of training in which they were taught to distinguish between words and "non words", various combinations of these elements were presented to them. Result? The animals were able to distinguish the true words from the false ones with an accuracy of 75%; is the so-called "spelling" of words.
Not only that, and much more importantly, other analyzes have found that the distinction between words and non-words did not occur because the baboons remembered the individual combinations of letters, but because they understood the properties of the groups. In other words, they were able to arrive at what is called "statistical learning"; they had understood what were the characteristics of the letter combinations that made up the words and were able to extend them to other new words. They had, so to speak, learned a rule of reading and applied it to other unknown structures.
Why is this study important?
According to the researchers it does not mean that the baboons are really able to read, but only that one of the first steps of the language, that is the recognition of a sequence of letters, is present in the brains of our close relatives. It was believed until now that language was a complex process composed of various steps; but that each of these passages was just our species. The discovery that we have in common one of these passages with the monkeys could lead to discover other aspects of the birth of this property.
The experiment video
In the video below we can see how the experiment was carried out: a touch screen was placed in a small box where words and not words appeared. The babbuni, touching on a cross, signaled that the word on the monitor was a series of meaningless letters; touching on the spot instead they signaled that they were "reading" a word (for example kite, in English kite).

to know more

Do animals know how to count?

In the mind of a chimpanzee

Test: is your dog smart?

Everyone at school
After a period of training in which they were taught to distinguish between words and "non words", various combinations of these elements were presented to them. Result? The animals were able to distinguish the true words from the false ones with an accuracy of 75%; is the so-called "spelling" of words.
Not only that, and much more importantly, other analyzes have found that the distinction between words and non-words did not occur because the baboons remembered the individual combinations of letters, but because they understood the properties of the groups. In other words, they were able to arrive at what is called "statistical learning"; they had understood what were the characteristics of the letter combinations that made up the words and were able to extend them to other new words. They had, so to speak, learned a rule of reading and applied it to other unknown structures.
Why is this study important?
According to the researchers it does not mean that the baboons are really able to read, but only that one of the first steps of the language, that is the recognition of a sequence of letters, is present in the brains of our close relatives. It was believed until now that language was a complex process composed of various steps; but that each of these passages was just our species. The discovery that we have in common one of these passages with the monkeys could lead to discover other aspects of the birth of this property.
The experiment video
In the video below we can see how the experiment was carried out: a touch screen was placed in a small box where words and not words appeared. The babbuni, touching on a cross, signaled that the word on the monitor was a series of meaningless letters; touching on the spot instead they signaled that they were "reading" a word (for example kite, in English kite).