Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why do dogs smile and chimpanzees cry?

  1. Mar 8, 2006 #1
    was a show that I watched last night on how humans attribute emotional characteristics to animals. In the show they featured a segment about a chimpanzee who was taught sign language to communicate with humans. This isn't something new and many of us have heard about it. However, what I did think was interesting was the chimp they taught ASL to taught her adopted son how to communicate using it. She did this without reward from the scientists. As I watched this I started to wonder why was she teaching him this? At first I thought it might have just been the observational learning skills of the baby, but the mother taught the infant. Any thoughts?

    ~Kitty
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 8, 2006 #2

    matthyaouw

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    "Many scientists have announced proudly that they have taught a chimp a human language. One has to wonder why not one scientist yet has managed to learn chimp"

    (I forget the exact wording of that quote, and to whom it is attributed, but it seemed almost relevant.)
     
  4. Mar 8, 2006 #3
    I haven't heard that quote before. Why would the mother teach the infant ASL in addition to their natural method of communication?

    ~Kitty
     
  5. Mar 8, 2006 #4

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed


    Maybe because it was superior, from the chimp point of view, to their normal mode of communication? It doesn't follow, you know, that because it was better the chimps would automatically develop it them selves. Many of us find the music of Mozart or the Beatles better than what we could do ourselves.
     
  6. Mar 8, 2006 #5
    It's natural to teach your kids what you know - maybe she was just trying to teach the baby things that she had learned.
     
  7. Mar 9, 2006 #6
    This is true. SA brings up a good question of why didn't they develop it themselves if it is superior? They have demonstrated the brain capacity is there.

    ~Kitty
     
  8. Mar 9, 2006 #7

    Phobos

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    "Superior"? Perhaps. But in the wild, their current form of communication works very well for them. But hey, with humans intruding into their habitat more and more, perhaps ASL offers a new advantage to chimps.
     
  9. Mar 9, 2006 #8

    Phobos

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    A different chimp documentary (about, not by :smile: ) I saw reported that different chimp groups have something like different cultures (different knowledge passed down from parents to offspring...like termite fishing with blades of grass in some groups). It may just be chimp behavior to teach whatever they know, particularly if it provides a reward (like getting food from lab scientists).
     
  10. Mar 9, 2006 #9
    I didn't mean superior as in it would work way better for them. I'm sorry if it came off that way. For us verbal and sign language is superior than grunting like chimps. I do agree with your statement about humans intruding in their lives.

    ~Kitty
     
  11. Mar 9, 2006 #10

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I don't think we can find the answer to MissKitty's question off the top of our heads. It's like attributing motives to other people. Since the chimpanzee in question can sign, why don't we ask her? Anyone here know ASL?
     
  12. Mar 9, 2006 #11

    Mk

    User Avatar

    I was going to reply in ASL but then realized you wouldn't understand it. And it would not go well through this little box.
     
  13. Mar 9, 2006 #12

    Ouabache

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Speaking of smart chimps... I recently heard on NPR, they will try to assist even without getting a direct reward. For example if we dropped a sponge, they would pick it up and offer it back, suggesting an innate behavior of cooperation.

    Here is a NY Times quote and article on this reference .
    Here is the reference to the original paper in Science, Who Are More Helpful, Humans or Chimpanzees? by Joan B. Silk, 3 March 2006, Vol. 311. no. 5765, pp. 1248 - 1249.
     
  14. Mar 9, 2006 #13
    I know a bit of ASL. OUabache, that's pretty cool.

    ~Kitty
     
  15. Mar 10, 2006 #14

    Phobos

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I know some...I used to be good at it but now I'm a bit rusty. Perhaps the chimp can teach me.
     
  16. Mar 14, 2006 #15
    She probably could.

    ~Kitty
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Why do dogs smile and chimpanzees cry?
  1. Chimpanzee strength (Replies: 3)

  2. Why do cells die? (Replies: 9)

Loading...