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Kanzi July 9, 2006

Posted by Ron in Animal cognition, Language.
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Some of the most interesting work on primate language research is being done right here in Atlanta. Kanzi (who you read about for this week) is a bonobo chimpanzee trained by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh,a professor of biology at Georgia State. Savage-Rumbaugh has a unique take on the language problem. Since language is socially-driven (both in humans and from an evolutionary perspective) Savage-Rumbaugh has worked hard to provide a social context for the primates she trains. Kanzi isn’t simply giving a symbol for a stimulus, he’s placed in a social context with friends and activities, which provides the motivation for the use of language.

NPR’s Morning Edition Saturday just broadcast an extended interview with Prof. Savage-Rumbaugh and (of course!) Kanzi himself. It’s a fascinating story and a must-hear.

But do I tell my wife about this…? July 7, 2006

Posted by Ron in Animal cognition, Cognitive Science News.
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The New York Times‘ most frequently-emailed article for over a week now has been a paean to operant conditioning. An animal trainer takes what works at the local marine park, and successfully applies it to. . .her husband.

Skinner would be proud.

Article: What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage (free registration required)

Flipper was only his stage name… May 18, 2006

Posted by Ron in Animal cognition, Cognitive Science News.
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As we discussed in class, researchers in Scotland have shown that dolphins use whistle sequences that act as their unique identifiers — in other words, they appear to name themselves. They are the only animals (aside from parrots) known to have this behavior.