Chimpanzees can Write with Plastic Symbols

  • William A. Hillix
  • Duane M. Rumbaugh
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


The Premacks, Ann James and David, were interested in animal cognition and language very early, at least as early as 1954 (personal communication, David Premack, 1954) and started preparatory work with monkeys soon after that time. In 1964,1 the Premacks adopted two young female chimpanzees named Sarah and Gussie. Sarah proved to be an excellent student, but Gussie never learned a single word. The Premacks later worked on language training with several other animals, but none of them were as intelligent as Sarah. A characteristic of the Premacks’ work is that their primary interest was in the cognition of chimpanzees, with language regarded more as a window to the chimpanzee mind than as the center of their attention. David Premack’s discussion2 of the. relative problem-solving abilities of language-trained and non-language-trained chimpanzees makes that clear. He found striking individual differences in intelligence between chimpanzees in each group, whether language-trained or not: “We have...had both gifted and ungifted animals in each group. Sarah is a bright animal by any standards, but so is Jessie, one of the non-language-trained animals. The groups are also comparable at the other end of the continuum, Peony’s negative gifts being well matched by those of Luvy” (p. 125).


Word Order Human Intelligence Language Training Animal Intelligence Abstract Code 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • William A. Hillix
    • 1
  • Duane M. Rumbaugh
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychology and BiologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Iowa Primate Learning SanctuaryDes MoinesUSA

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