Aug 02 2007

One Word, Sounds Like…

Category: PersonalChrisM @ 12:22 pm

Researchers from St Andrews University, in Scotland, believe they have identified intelligent communication modification habits by Orangutans. Although great apes have already been shown to be capable of using sign language to communicate with humans, the researchers have proven that Orangutans will modify their signals if the human involved does not appear to understand.
This approach shows intelligence, the researchers have stated in their study published by the journal Current Biology.
One of the authors, Richard Byrne, stated “We were interested in the intentions behind communication. When humans communicate, we routinely use our knowledge of what our audience knows and what they don’t know automatically. We wanted to find out whether the great apes, that have so much flexibility with their communication, do the same thing.”
To test their theory, the researchers carried out tests with six orangutans; their keeper would display a range of food items, such as a banana, and also more boring food, like a leek. The Orangutan would attract the keeper’s attention, hoping for the banana. At this point the keeper would either hand over the banana, pretend to not notice the request for the banana and give them the leek, or only give them a piece of the banana.
At this point, the Orangutan would react to the keeper’s actions; if the whole banana had been given, they would simply consume the food, and communication would often end, when a leek was offered, they would appear to comprehend that they had been mis-understood, and so change the signals they had originally given, hoping to get the banana this time, and where only a piece of banana had been given, the same signal would be used, but more emphatically.
This communication behaviour modification indicates some intelligence was applied by the Orangutans, and was repeatedly observed with different Orangutans in different locations.

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