Tech UPTechnologyChimpanzees are self-aware and talk about the weather

Chimpanzees are self-aware and talk about the weather

chimpances-violenciaThechimpanzees have a clear “self-awareness”And, like human beings, that consciousness is linked to their faculty ofanticipate the effects of their own actionsabout their environment, reveals an investigation whose results are published in the British magazineProceedings of the Royal Society.

Many scientists had already pointed out the ability of certain animals, particularly the great apes, to recognize themselves in a mirror. The most used test is to paint a mark on their body that they cannot see without looking in a mirror and see if they try to erase it or not. The mirror test tested the monkeys’ cognitive abilities, but controversy persisted over the mechanisms that allow them to identify.

In humans,the ‘agency’, or ability to recognize oneself as an independent agent that has an effect on the external environment, proceeds above all from the ability to relate the expected result of an action with the result produced. For example, in a video game in which several players participate, this ability allows each player to quickly determine which character he controls among those who move on the screen. To dispel doubts about chimpanzees, two Japanese primate specialists, Takaaki Kaneko and Masaki Tomonaga, from the University of Tokyo,trained three females to move a cursor on a screen with a mouse. Once they were familiar with the use of this tool, they were presented on the screen with two cursors of identical shape and color: one controlled by the mouse, the other a simple recording of the cursor moved by the same monkey the previous days. That is, the only way that the chimpanzee could identify the cursor that he controlled was to compare its action with the result perceived on the screen.

According to Japanese scientists, the tests are conclusive and show thatchimpanzees analyze the effects of their actions on the outside world. “The results suggest that chimpanzees and humans share the same fundamental cognitive processes” that underpin their self-awareness, the scientists conclude.

Monkeys talk about the weather, lie and criticize

For their part, the American couple of Deborah and Roger S. Fouts have dedicated their lives to combating the idea that language is the “last bastion” of human uniqueness and the result has beenmore than 40 years of work with chimpanzees who have not only learned to communicate with sign language, but to lie, to say “I am sad”, to ask for forgivenessand even to make poetry.

The Fouts were continuators of work begun in the 1960s by another couple to whom NASA released the chimpanzee Washoe after the space agency abandoned its research with “chimpanzees.” Washoe was brought into a human environment where only deaf-mute language was spoken. The primate learned more than a hundred signs by watching the team communicate. When the Gardners decided to give her to a center in Oklahoma, Roger did not want to leave her alone in that laboratory – where she was going to have a hard time in cages with some fellows whom he called “black bugs” – and managed to take her with him to Washington to continue to investigate, until the death of the chimpanzee in 2007.

The couple of researchers, who have passed through Barcelona invited by CosmoCaixa and the Mona Foundation, were able to see howWashoe transferred the language to her “family”, Tatu, Dar and Loulis-an adopted baby that learned the signs without human intervention- to surprising levels: they got to speak by themselves while “reading” a magazine, since they are able to name what they see in the photos (drink, food, ice cream, shoes …). “They talk like a family; if they argue, they try to put peace; when Loulis took a magazine from Washoe, she cursed him and said ‘dirty’,” explained Deborah. They even comment on the weather, make poetic compositions and invent new signs.


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