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Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings

Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings

Duane M. Rumbaugh
David A. Washburn
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings
    Book Description:

    What is animal intelligence? In what ways is it similar to human intelligence? Many behavioral scientists have realized that animals can be rational, can think in abstract symbols, can understand and react to human speech, and can learn through observation as well as conditioning many of the more complicated skills of life. Now Duane Rumbaugh and David Washburn probe the mysteries of the animal mind even further, identifying an advanced level of animal behavior-emergents-that reflects animals' natural and active inclination to make sense of the world. Rumbaugh and Washburn unify all behavior into a framework they call Rational Behaviorism and present it as a new way to understand learning, intelligence, and rational behavior in both animals and humans.Drawing on years of research on issues of complex learning and intelligence in primates (notably rhesus monkeys, chimpanzees, and bonobos), Rumbaugh and Washburn provide delightful examples of animal ingenuity and persistence, showing that animals are capable of very creative solutions to novel challenges. The authors analyze learning processes and research methods, discuss the meaningful differences across the primate order, and point the way to further advances, enlivening theoretical material about primates with stories about their behavior and achievements.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12935-9
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    Current Perspectives in Psychology presents the latest discoveries and developments across the spectrum of the psychological and behavioral sciences. The series explores such important topics as learning, intelligence, trauma, stress, brain development and behavior, anxiety, interpersonal relationships, education, child-rearing, divorce and marital discord, and child, adolescent, and adult development. Each book focuses on critical advances in research, theory, methods, and applications and is designed to be accessible and informative to nonspecialists and specialists alike.

    InThe Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings, Duane M. Rumbaugh and David A. Washburn show that learning by apes—and even by animals usually...

  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    William A. Mason

    I remember well the thrill of my first close encounter with an adult chimpanzee. I was visiting the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology, then located in Orange Park, Florida. That was more than forty years ago, a time when it was possible for visitors to roam alone around the spacious grounds surrounding caged chimpanzees. One animal in particular caught my attention, and it was obvious that she meant to do so. She was at the front of the cage holding between her lips a pine straw that she had pushed through the wire. It seemed obvious from the way she...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  6. I The Need for a Rational Behaviorism

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-20)

      The need for a better understanding of animal intelligence has become clear in recent years as, particularly in the laboratory, animals have done truly remarkable things, things that would not have been anticipated even ten years ago. Here we will make the case that to view animals as irrational, unsmart creatures is no longer tenable. In measure, we must now view them as beings with intelligence and rationality appropriate to their species. Otherwise, how can we account for their remarkable achievements in advanced levels of communication (including, in some cases, language), in counting, and in computerbased tasks? The intelligence of...

    • 2 Adaptation
      (pp. 21-30)

      Adaptation—survival and reproduction across time—is achieved, in measure, by the physical and behavioral attributes of individuals and species. Adaptation is a continuing challenge and is never perfect. If adaptation begins to fail, dire consequences follow; if it fails completely, the consequence is death or extinction. At any one point in time, successful adaptation generally entails competent behavior, for behavior governs the organism’s ability to use environmental resources on the one hand and provides protection from dangers and environmental extremes on the other (Beck 1980; Gottlieb 1984; Kummer 1986). Over the long term, however, adaptation requires selection of species...

    • 3 Sculpting of Tendencies
      (pp. 31-36)

      Even unlearned instinctive behaviors can provide the foundations for learning not only how to do things more efficiently but how to do them differently. That ducklings and chicks instinctively follow the first moving object that they see is generally known. That a duckling can be quite clever in “following” that object is not.

      At times, behaviors of relatively complex forms appear as surprises. These behaviors are worthy of attention, for they can point to processes that otherwise go undetected. For example, Dr. Len Rosenblum of the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, recounted to one of us how...

    • 4 Learning, the Foundation of Intelligence
      (pp. 37-43)

      Learning can do what instincts cannot: it can afford creatures flexibility and problem solving. Its cost is substantial, however. Complex learning generally requires a large and highly complex brain. Large brains, in turn, are very expensive metabolically. Their consumption of energy is massive and continuous, whereas energy consumed even by striate muscle groups of a body tend to be occasional, even intermittent.

      But not all learning is complex. Some learning is basic and reflects the neurophysiological design and operations of the body. Such is the case with the most elemental form of conditioning, respondent conditioning. Pet owners and farmers across...

    • 5 Limitations of Respondents and Operants
      (pp. 44-48)

      Respondent conditioning can occur at the level of the spinal cord. It does not need a brain (or consciousness) to occur. Nonetheless, the general ineffectiveness of presenting the unconditional stimulus before the conditional one (backward conditioning) supports the thesis that the important function for the conditional stimulus is to signal that some imminent event is at hand.

      Thus we have the strong suggestion that the subject learns in a single sequential direction. If the unconditional stimulus is a shock to a dog’s paw, serving to elicit an involuntary withdrawal response, the interests of adaptation are well served if the subject...

  7. II A Journey Toward Rational Behaviorism

    • 6 First Lessons from Primates
      (pp. 51-58)

      With our framework of learning and intelligence now in place, let us recount the kinds of data that have led us to posit rationality in animals’ behaviors.

      My (Rumbaugh) first academic appointment, to San Diego State University in 1954, is worthy of note here because of the university’s proximity to the San Diego Zoo. It was there that I was first overwhelmed by the appearance and behavior of the monkeys and apes that, collectively, form the order Primates. As I watched them, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the variation that their numerous species characteristics presented. Some were huge,...

    • 7 Primate Research at the San Diego Zoo
      (pp. 59-77)

      In earlier years, the San Diego Zoo boasted two mountain gorillas(Gorilla gorilla beringei)in its collection. After those two magnificent animals died, their popularity probably inspired the zoo to continue to feature gorillas in its collection. With the demise of the two mountain gorillas, the collection was redirected to the lowland species(Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The zoo also had a fine group of orangutans(Pongo pygmaeus)and was among the first to have both species of chimpanzee— the so-called common chimpanzee(Pan troglodytes)and the so-called pygmy chimpanzee(Pan paniscus). Both common names are somewhat deceptive: the common chimpanzee...

    • 8 Interesting Events at the San Diego Zoo
      (pp. 78-84)

      Learning to manage the young apes in what had been the monkeyeating eagle’s cage was quite a challenge. One story, selected from many, will make the point.

      While a young orangutan, Roberta (age four), was being moved from her cage to the test one for her daily testing, there was one millisecond during which a sliding door to the outside remained closed but not locked. In that split second, that orangutan was transformed into a bolt of orange lightning. Contrary to the species’ usual, slow-moving gait, this orangutan moved, and she moved fast! Out the door, over the fence, and...

  8. III Studies of Ape Language and Rational Behaviors

    • 9 The LANA Project, 1971
      (pp. 87-113)

      The San Diego Zoo studies of apes and their abilities to learn how to learn, to transfer learning to an advantage, and to learn in terms of rules rather than a more constraining stimulus-response mode—all as a positive function of brain complexity—had made an important contribution. A large brain was the cost, biologically, of advanced cognition (Roitblat, Bever, and Terrace 1984). These laboratory studies revealed a positive relation between brain complexity and complex cognitive operations, findings that could not possibly have been obtained from research in the field given the limitations of present-day field methods. But the studies...

    • 10 The Assembling of Language: Sherman and Austin
      (pp. 114-127)

      In her bookApe Language: From Conditioned Response to Symbol,Sue Savage-Rumbaugh (1986) provides a detailed account of the research with the chimpanzees Sherman and Austin. Her effort is best known for the demonstration that chimpanzees can coordinate their social and problem-solving efforts through use of learned symbols. A second research finding is from many perspectives more important scientifically. That finding was that the apes can categorize lexigrams in terms of whether each stands for a tool or for a food. We shall cite only some benchmarks of that study program, those that bear most directly upon our interest in...

    • 11 Kanzi!
      (pp. 128-144)

      Science begins with systematic observation, yet most scientists look for theory, perspectives, and hypotheses to be empirically tested in research programs. To have theories and hypotheses worth testing, we need observation. At times, we believe that we are progressing on the basis of relevant observations only to find years later that they were inappropriate and diametrically opposed to those that should have been followed.

      Without exception, investigators who have undertaken studies of ape-language skills have set out to teach their subjects through use of such devices as hand signs, plastic tokens, or lexigram-embossed keyboards. The tacit assumption seemingly went something...

  9. IV Investigating Rational Behaviorism Across Species

    • 12 Asking Questions so That Animals Can Provide the Right Answers
      (pp. 147-166)

      Why have chimpanzees and bonobos succeeded in demonstrating use and comprehension of language where other animals have failed? How have they learned to understand symbols (including, in some cases, human speech) as referential, functional, shared vehicles for the communication of comments, questions, requests, and other meanings? The answer to these questions is multifaceted. No doubt, these successes reflect the marvelous complexity of the great ape brains, the ingenuity and dedication of the teams of scientists and technicians who provided appropriate early social interactions, and the shift in research focus from one of production to one of comprehension, language-structured rearing, and...

    • 13 When Emergents Just Don’t Emerge
      (pp. 167-177)

      Should you conclude, in light of these findings, that monkeys tested with the computerized test system can do everything that chimpanzees can do—or everything that humans can do, for that matter? More broadly, is it possible that all of the so-called species differences that have been documented in the comparative literature are simply artifacts of the apparatus or paradigms used to ask the questions? These are empirical questions, of course; however, it is unlikely that all of the established species differences are artifactual. Although one can never prove the null hypothesis—the burden of proof for showing that a...

    • 14 Animals Count
      (pp. 178-190)

      In recent years the topic of numerical cognition has been the focus of one of the most interesting, productive, and contentious research areas in comparative psychology. The questions driving this research have ranged from “Do animals respond to the numerical attribute of stimuli?” to “Can animals count or perform elementary mathematical operations?” This array of research questions has intrigued many of the most active and influential researchers in our discipline, and comparative studies of numerical cognition have been a staple at some of the preeminent research laboratories in the world. These studies have included a wide range of animals, including...

  10. V Rational Behaviorism:: A System for Instincts, Respondents, Operants, and Emergents

    • 15 Brain Business: Cause-Effect Reasoning
      (pp. 193-208)

      Humans are given not only to thinking in terms of cause-effect reasoning, but also to dichotomous reasoning about what caused a given event. We are ever so prone to thinking that either it was Cause A or Cause B that brought about Event Z, when in fact there can be a large number of causal candidates. Also, the effectiveness of a given causal antecedent for an event might well depend upon its interaction with one or more other antecedents. The world and the events about us are not as a rule to be satisfactorily explained in terms of either-or thinking—...

    • 16 Processes Basic to Learning and Reinforcement: A New Perspective
      (pp. 209-236)

      An organism’s world consists of stimulus events that impinge upon its various senses. Not all of these stimuli can or should be responded to; to do so would lead to frantic disorganization of adaptive processes. Choices must be made. Here we explore the bases for those choices. We will discuss both how some stimuli are naturally salient and how the salience of stimuli can be profoundly altered by experience. We will examine how stimuli can become functionally equivalent through being presented together, as in sensory preconditioning. Finally, we will offer a reinterpretation of reinforcement and selected conditioning phenomena. Our purpose...

    • 17 Harlow’s Bridge to Rational Behaviors
      (pp. 237-248)

      Let us now examine a phenomenon that was pivotal to the design of the San Diego Zoo research program, to the formulation of Emergent behaviors, and to the measurement of basic parameters of primate intelligence. The phenomenon is learning set—learning how to learn—defined by Harlow in his classic article of 1949 (Harlow 1949; Rumbaugh 1997). Although we have already discussed learning set with respect to the comparative assessment of intelligence, our current examination of learning set will be from the perspective of the bridge afforded between radical behaviorism and what we call Rational Behaviorism.

      Harry F. Harlow is...

    • 18 Rational Behaviorism
      (pp. 249-266)

      Research reviewed in this book, along with the vast body accumulated during the course of the twentieth century, supports the conclusion that animals, and notably the primates, are intelligent (Heyes and Huber 2000; de Waal 2001; Gallistel 1992). They have mastered problem-solving, cognitive, and social skills that require high-level symbolic operations thought impossible of them even twenty-five years ago. Neither their complex skills nor ours are to be accounted for satisfactorily in terms of basic associative conditioning. The complex processes of learning-set formation; speech comprehension by apes; the creative use by apes of flint for knapping sharp chips for use...

    • 19 Overview and Perspective
      (pp. 267-287)

      Throughout the history of psychologists’ efforts to understand animal behavior, the questions that have been front and center have been “What stimulus is the animal now responding to? What is the history of reinforcement for it to do so?” In this book we have worked to look beyond the bounds of those questions. We have worked to go beyond traditional instinctive and conditioned behavior in our exploration of animal intelligence. We posit that with evolution of the brain there have been trends not only to enlargement and complexity but toward malleability of orientations in cognition and learning. As important has...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 288-290)

    A hallmark of scientific thought is that it is receptive to new findings, new data that serve to modulate perspectives of the past and to open new vistas for the future. Even as this book nears the date of printing, Kanzi has come forth with new lessons that pertain to our understanding of language and emergent operations.

    Without being trained or required to do so, Kanzi has come to modulate his vocalizations to produce different sounds that correspond to different things that he likes and as a way of expressing agreement (Taglialatela, Savage-Rumbaugh, and Baker 2003). He produces different vocalizations...

  12. References
    (pp. 291-309)
  13. Recommended Reading
    (pp. 310-316)
  14. Index
    (pp. 317-326)