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Old 25th September 2004, 11:56 AM   #1
PhxHorn
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Koko the talking gorilla

I remember reading about Koko the gorilla (or ape) who had supposedly learned sign language. I first heard about it in National Geographic around 1980 or so. She supposedly could communiate at a fairly high level.

Then I read some things a few years ago about how the results were highly questionalbe, since the scientists were going out of their way to prompt the gorilla for a certain sign, and then if they got something even vaguely resembling the desired response, they'd count it as a "hit." They were cheating, basically.

I can't find anything on the internet that discusses the cheating. I've spent a few minutes googling, and other than a book review from 1980, I couldn't find anything. It seems like the media fell all over themselves a few weeks ago when the Koko had a toothache and communicated that fact.

Can anyone point me towards something skeptical on this topic? Thanks.
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Old 25th September 2004, 12:09 PM   #2
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Re: Koko the talking gorilla

Quote:
Originally posted by PhxHorn
I remember reading about Koko the gorilla (or ape) who had supposedly learned sign language. I first heard about it in National Geographic around 1980 or so. She supposedly could communiate at a fairly high level.

Then I read some things a few years ago about how the results were highly questionalbe, since the scientists were going out of their way to prompt the gorilla for a certain sign, and then if they got something even vaguely resembling the desired response, they'd count it as a "hit." They were cheating, basically.

I can't find anything on the internet that discusses the cheating. I've spent a few minutes googling, and other than a book review from 1980, I couldn't find anything. It seems like the media fell all over themselves a few weeks ago when the Koko had a toothache and communicated that fact.

Can anyone point me towards something skeptical on this topic? Thanks.
You can look here...

http://www.csicop.org/articles/koko/index.html


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Old 25th September 2004, 01:45 PM   #3
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Quote:
the media fell all over themselves a few weeks ago when the Koko had a toothache and communicated that fact.
Har. Yeah. She signed "pain" in ASL, pointed to her mouth, her keepers made a chart numbered from 1 to 10, she pointed to "9"--and they called a dentist.

One can't help wondering what they would have done if she had only pointed to "1". And apparently it took her several weeks of signing "pain" and pointing to her mouth before the humans twigged to what she was attempting to communicate.


And what I wanna know--the question that is really driving me nuts, and no amount of Googling is sufficing to answer it--is how she understood the concept of a "how bad is the pain on a scale of 1 to 10". That's a fairly sophisticated concept--small children don't understand it, until they're about grade-school age. So how, and when, did her handlers, sometime over the last 20 years, manage to explain the concept of "how bad is it, on a scale from 1 to 10" to a gorilla?

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20040809/koko.html
Quote:
Lorraine Slater, development director of the Northern California-based Gorilla Foundation that houses Koko, told Discovery News that the lowland gorilla had been signing about tooth discomfort for a while before she communicated that the pain had become more intense in the past three to four weeks.

Slater said Koko's caregivers created a chart containing the numbers one through 10 with corresponding amounts of dots, as the gorilla responds to visual information.

Over the past several days, the researchers asked the gorilla on a daily basis to communicate her level of tooth pain.

"Sometimes the pain was rated a two or a three just after Koko was given medication," said Slater. "She then rated the pain as a seven and then an eight. We gave her the choice of having more medication or an operation, and Koko communicated that she desired the operation."

Slater explained that the gorilla knew what an operation was because caregivers previously gave Koko an "operation doll, similar to what young children play with," along with lessons about basic medical procedures.
The mind boggles at all the assumptions that the humans are carrying around here.

An "operation doll" doesn't explain even to young children what an "operation" is--all it looks like to them is a weird-looking doll. It takes Mommy's words, her explanation, to communicate what's going on. The doll by itself doesn't tell the child anything about what's going to happen.

I'd really give a lot of money to know exactly what they signed to her about "basic medical procedures", and what exactly she signed back, to indicate that she understood.


Also, how do they know she wasn't asking for "another doll", instead of "an operation"?
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Old 27th September 2004, 08:01 AM   #4
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http://tafkac.org/language/primates_and_language.html

I love this quote:

Quote:
What an irony it is that the supposed attempt to being Homo sapiens down a few notches in the natural order has taken the form of us humans hectoring another species into emulating our instinctive form of communication, or some artificial form we have invented, as if that were the measure of biological worth.
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Old 27th September 2004, 12:22 PM   #5
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I believe it would have taken my dog much less time to let me know she had a toothache.
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Old 27th September 2004, 12:50 PM   #6
pgwenthold
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If the exchange on the CSICOP page is any indication, Koko is just babbling nonsense. Examples

Quote:
Question: Koko are you going to have a baby in the future?

Koko signs: Pink
Patterson explains: We had earlier discussion about colors today.
Interpretation: Hey, this got me a treat earlier, does it still work?

Does not appear to have any concept of the question.



Quote:
Question: Do you like to chat with people?

Koko signs: Fine nipple.
Patterson explains: Nipple rhymes with people, she doesn't sign people per se, she was trying to do a "sounds like..."
There is no "rhymes" in sign language! It's supposed to be sign language, not english! So much for being able to understand sign language.

"Sounds like..." Sheesh. Does the sign for nipple _look_ like people? I don't know, but it doesn't matter.


Quote:
Question: Does she have hair? Or is it like fur?

Koko signs: Fine.
Patterson explains: She has fine hair.
Maybe she has fine fur?

Again, Koko doesn't appear to be answering the question.


Quote:
Question: Koko, do you feel love from the humans who have raised you?

Koko signs: Lips, apple give me.
Patterson explains: People give her her favorite foods.
The same can be said for my dog. That's why he comes in the room and rolls over whenever I have food in my hand. Nice trick I taught him, but that doesn't mean that he is communicating by rolling over.

Again, the interpretation is, "I have done this before and it worked to get food, let me try it again."

Boy, I hope there is a lot more to it than this.
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Old 27th September 2004, 03:06 PM   #7
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I hate to sound like a cruel a**hole, but the world would probably have ignored Koko if it weren't for that damn kitten getting run over.
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Old 27th September 2004, 03:34 PM   #8
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Maybe gorillas really can communicate via sign language but Koko's just an idiot.
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Old 27th September 2004, 03:37 PM   #9
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Or maybe she just likes avoiding the questions.


For example:

Question: Do you like to chat with people?
Koko signs: Fine nipple.


How is that so different from:

Me: How do you account for the fact that dinosaur and human fossils are not found in the same rock strata?
1inChrist: I think dragons really existed.


Maybe we're being harsh on poor Koko.
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Old 27th September 2004, 04:40 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by PhxHorn

Then I read some things a few years ago about how the results were highly questionalbe, since the scientists were going out of their way to prompt the gorilla for a certain sign, and then if they got something even vaguely resembling the desired response, they'd count it as a "hit."
To be fair, this is really not much different from what takes place during communication between humans. How perfectly should a response adhere to form in order to be counted as a hit? When listening to another person talk, minor corrections and filling in of blank spots takes place a lot more often than we are normally aware of. I'm not impressed that Koko has mastered language, but I think that, due to the nature of the problem, the results of any such experiments are likely to be questionable.
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Old 27th September 2004, 05:31 PM   #11
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Was Koko ever taught the signs for curse words?
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Old 27th September 2004, 06:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ashles
Or maybe she just likes avoiding the questions.


For example:

Question: Do you like to chat with people?
Koko signs: Fine nipple.


How is that so different from:

Me: How do you account for the fact that dinosaur and human fossils are not found in the same rock strata?
1inChrist: I think dragons really existed.


Maybe we're being harsh on poor Koko.
You owe me a beer and a new keyboard.
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Old 27th September 2004, 09:51 PM   #13
Graculus
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ashles
For example:

Question: Do you like to chat with people?
Koko signs: Fine nipple.
Actually, her teacher did tell the person why she said that. Koko uses sign "homophones" for words that she doesn't have a sign for. She uses "knock" for "obnoxious", for instance.

She and Micheal (the recently deceased male) would speak to each other with sign language.

On a blind application of the Assessment of Children's Language Comprehension test, Koko scored over twice the "chance" score.

There is obviously some capacity there, even if it isn't up to human level.

"no ape has ever shown linguistic abilities approaching those of a normal child entering kindergarten. Nevertheless they seem to have a clear-cut, although elementary, ability to use language." - Carl Sagan.
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Old 27th September 2004, 11:20 PM   #14
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I fail to see what the fuss is about. Apes are very intelligent beings which communicate in a fairly complex way in nature. Of course they may be able to learn a different mode of communication, like sign language.

The trouble starts when we try to compare them with humans. Apes are not humans, they are not as intelligent as humans, and their way of thinking is different from humans. Apes are excellent at being apes, and very poor at being humans. Just like humans are excellent at being humans, but would perform very poorly if we tried to be apes.

Edited to add: Btw, wasn't Koko a chimpanzee?

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Old 28th September 2004, 01:43 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Graculus
Actually, her teacher did tell the person why she said that. Koko uses sign "homophones" for words that she doesn't have a sign for. She uses "knock" for "obnoxious", for instance.

She and Micheal (the recently deceased male) would speak to each other with sign language.

On a blind application of the Assessment of Children's Language Comprehension test, Koko scored over twice the "chance" score.

There is obviously some capacity there, even if it isn't up to human level.

"no ape has ever shown linguistic abilities approaching those of a normal child entering kindergarten. Nevertheless they seem to have a clear-cut, although elementary, ability to use language." - Carl Sagan.
I remain sceptical on this. It concerns me that an awful lot of prompting may be going on. My dog "understands" 25 or so commands. One of them is "sit". I can use the word "sit" or I can raise my hand, either way he will park his bum on the floor. It is also his "default" behaviour. In otherwords if he wants something, he'll try a "sit" first, if that doesn't get the response from me that he wants he'll move on to a lie down, a roll over and then usually a bark. These used to be quite well separated but now the time delay between the sit and lie down etc is quite short so it looks to a stranger as if he is linking all these actions together and it all seems quite impressive. My concern is that these researchers are seeing similar behaviour and attributing understanding to it.

Watch 2 dogs together and they will sit, roll over, lie down etc - does this mean they are communicating??
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Old 28th September 2004, 06:16 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally posted by MRC_Hans
Edited to add: Btw, wasn't Koko a chimpanzee?

Hans
Ummm...no.

The Gorilla Foundation: Home of Koko the Gorilla.


[hands Hans another cup of coffee, signing to him, "wake up wake up"]





(The famous signing chimp was named Washoe, who apparently failed to grasp how the entertainment industry works, and who does not have a website and a foundation...)
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Old 28th September 2004, 06:31 AM   #17
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Ah yes, Washoe . I read the book. If the accounts were objective, she did have some basic grasp of language.

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Old 28th September 2004, 06:43 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by Gastric ReFlux
Was Koko ever taught the signs for curse words?
I don't know about Koko, but Washoe was taught the sign "dirty" for when she soiled herself. She later used the sign at her trainer when he didn't reinforce her for a correct response. ("You dirty Roger")
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Old 28th September 2004, 07:03 AM   #19
sackett
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Koko

Koko is supposed to make jokes from time to time, e.g., pointing to her mouth and signing "fake nose."

And then there's the famous incident when a small plastic figurine of a human fell into her glass of water. Koko signed, "Baby in my drink." This is cited as an unmistakable instance of true language, i.e., of an open-ended use of symbolic communication.

Since gorillas aren't hard-wired for language the way humans are, it's not surprising that Koko's signing has aspects of a learned trick.
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Old 28th September 2004, 07:04 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by Stitch
I remain sceptical on this. It concerns me that an awful lot of prompting may be going on. My dog "understands" 25 or so commands. One of them is "sit". I can use the word "sit" or I can raise my hand, either way he will park his bum on the floor. It is also his "default" behaviour. In otherwords if he wants something, he'll try a "sit" first, if that doesn't get the response from me that he wants he'll move on to a lie down, a roll over and then usually a bark. These used to be quite well separated but now the time delay between the sit and lie down etc is quite short so it looks to a stranger as if he is linking all these actions together and it all seems quite impressive. My concern is that these researchers are seeing similar behaviour and attributing understanding to it.
Let me spin this around, then --- it's no good "remaining skeptical" in the absence of evidence. What kind of evidence/experiment would you want to see in order to establish that Koko really did "understand" sign language --- alternatively, where is the philosophical border between what your dogs do and what a hypothetical great ape that really did understand language would do? Or, alternatively, the border between your dogs and a young child?

For example, I think it's unfair to demand "human-level" syntax of Koko (something that many linguists seem implicitly to do; if Koko can't produce and understand embedded clauses, then she obviously doesn't "understand" language. But if you use that definition, my three year old niece doesn't, either.)

It's also demonstrably unfair to demand that Koko's responses always be direct, to the point, and conversationally adequate. Again, my three year old niece wouldn't pass that test.

What test WOULD you use to distinguish between my neice and your dogs?
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Old 28th September 2004, 07:07 AM   #21
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Re: Koko

Quote:
Originally posted by sackett

And then there's the famous incident when a small plastic figurine of a human fell into her glass of water. Koko signed, "Baby in my drink." This is cited as an unmistakable instance of true language, i.e., of an open-ended use of symbolic communication.
Wrong simian. "Baby in my drink" was a quote from Washoe, the chimpanzee.
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Old 28th September 2004, 07:16 AM   #22
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Re: Re: Koko

Quote:
Originally posted by new drkitten
Wrong simian. "Baby in my drink" was a quote from Washoe, the chimpanzee.
I will continue to believe that it was Koko, because gorillas are so much cuter than chimps. Well, at least gorillas don't give me the willies the way man's nearest relative does.
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Old 28th September 2004, 07:16 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally posted by Stitch
I remain sceptical on this. It concerns me that an awful lot of prompting may be going on.
How about the blind assessment (the tester didn't know the answer, either)? How about the communication between the two gorillas when no humans were present?

Here
"She scored comparable to human children on IQ tests at the ages of 3 ½, 4 and 4 ½. Koko scored an 84, a 95 and an 85 respectively; ... Koko also was facing some strong cultural biases being that the tests are directed toward humans. .... Koko is also quick witted. She has been known to tease her trainers with insults, argue over things she feels passionate about and lie to get herself out of trouble.

Critics of the now Dr. Patterson's findings generally focus on points such as (1) cues from trainers prompting speech and (2) sub-par and inconsistent performance on assessments of comprehension. Dr. Patterson rebuttals against the first claim by providing evidence of the spontaneous use 15 days out of a month that is required for a sign to be logged as learned, also many of her tests are performed double-blind, a process in which ensures there is a lack of cues that a tester can give..

... while Koko has not ever seen a real alligator she knows the sign and is afraid of toy alligators. ... When one of Dr. Patterson's assistants had prepared a snack for Koko but was slow in delivering it Koko signed “Alligator chase lip” (lip is a term Koko uses lip idiosyncratically for girl or woman). While there was no obviously no alligator present Koko used a sign associated with fear to her as a threat to what might happen if she is not served her snack promptly.

...(a young) Michael who wanted to play with Koko but who was having trouble communicating his desire was coached on by Koko through wire mesh. Koko signed, “Do visit Mike hurry, Mike think hurry,” .... When Koko attempted to persuade Michael with a “Koko good hug” he found the word he was looking for and with a signed “Koko”

...As far as productivity Koko has needed to, in the past make up new labels for unknown signs (ex. Koko never learned the sign for mask, so instead she refers to masks as “eye-hats”).


Being that Koko rarely ever speaks in complete sentences it is easy for skeptics to conclude that she does not have grammaticality. However, the information that Koko is provided in sign language is hardly ever anything but broken language and the structure of her utterances generally follow correct verb-noun and noun-verb-noun forms.
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Old 28th September 2004, 02:27 PM   #24
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"Baby in my drink" was Washoe's. Quite definitely. Google it.
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Old 28th September 2004, 02:37 PM   #25
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Quote:
When one of Dr. Patterson's assistants had prepared a snack for Koko but was slow in delivering it Koko signed “Alligator chase lip” (lip is a term Koko uses lip idiosyncratically for girl or woman). While there was no obviously no alligator present Koko used a sign associated with fear to her as a threat to what might happen if she is not served her snack promptly.
But, see, they're reading all kinds of motivation into the signing here. They're assuming that that's what Koko meant, that she was feeling impatient for her snack--but they don't have any way of knowing. For all they know, it could simply have been a simian non-sequitur.
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Old 28th September 2004, 02:53 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally posted by Goshawk
But, see, they're reading all kinds of motivation into the signing here. They're assuming that that's what Koko meant, that she was feeling impatient for her snack--but they don't have any way of knowing. For all they know, it could simply have been a simian non-sequitur.
Or maybe it's because Koko is a brat.
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Old 28th September 2004, 03:44 PM   #27
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Koko sure thinks she has fine nipples.
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Old 28th September 2004, 03:54 PM   #28
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Actually, come to think of it, why have they been teaching Koko about nipples at all? I mean, if you had to write a vocabulary for a different species, how high up your list would 'nipple' really be?

Would it be higher than 'girl' or 'woman'?

After all, apparently, 'Koko uses lip idiosyncratically for girl or woman'.

Why would a gorilla start using language ideosyncratically in place of the actual words?

If I wanted to talk to a gorilla, I honestly think it would be a real long time before I taught the gorilla about nipples.
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Old 28th September 2004, 08:22 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ashles
If I wanted to talk to a gorilla, I honestly think it would be a real long time before I taught the gorilla about nipples.
Why the heck WOULDN'T you teach "nipples" to a girl gorilla? Besides, maybe she asked.
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Old 28th September 2004, 10:43 PM   #30
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I recall many anthropology profs who simply wrote off Dr. Penny Patterson. Apparently she refuses to publish in refereed journals, because they'll (as one prof put it), 'referee her'. She's not very well respected in the anthropology community.

They did try to teach a chimp (Nimh Chimsky, I think was his name), syntax, by teaching him a different form of sign language that mirrored english (I think it was called pidgin english sign language?) but concluded that it couldn't be done. However, there were numerous problems with the way the experiment was conducted, supposedly. They anticipate greater success by using bonobos, a few who have performed quite well in language experiments.

I think my favourite bit of chimp language was how Washoe referred to other chimpanzees as 'dirty bugs'.
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Old 29th September 2004, 01:03 AM   #31
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Originally posted by new drkitten
Let me spin this around, then --- it's no good "remaining skeptical" in the absence of evidence.
So in the absence of evidence should I become a beliver or a cynic? As far as I am concerned, if there isn't sufficient evidence to support the case I'll keep an open mind, I may be swayed more in one direction than the other, but I don't go for the absolute of either extreme.

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What kind of evidence/experiment would you want to see in order to establish that Koko really did "understand" sign language
That's half my problem, I don't know what a reasonable level would be to set. I am not an expert it animal psychology or anthropology etc. What may look impressive to me may be dissmissed by the experts or indeed vice versa due to my lack of knowledge in the area. From what I have read (and I don't profess to have read a huge amount on the subject) I certainly can't discount prompt and interpret. If somebody can point me at a double blinded test performed for the Gorilla that would be more compelling evidence certainly.

We do then get in to a different debate of when does learning the consequences of a certain action actually become understanding of the initial actions?
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Old 29th September 2004, 01:26 AM   #32
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Originally posted by Graculus
How about the blind assessment (the tester didn't know the answer, either)?
I'll cover this in a moment...

Quote:
Originally posted by Graculus
How about the communication between the two gorillas when no humans were present?
What about it? It seems that much of the signing requires quite extensive interpretation, see later, so in the absence of some kind of blinded test I am not convinced that the Gorillas understood what they were doing in anything like the same manner as the researchers who observed and interpreted.

Quote:
Originally posted by Graculus
Here
"She scored comparable to human children on IQ tests at the ages of 3 ½, 4 and 4 ½. Koko scored an 84, a 95 and an 85 respectively; ... Koko also was facing some strong cultural biases being that the tests are directed toward humans. .... Koko is also quick witted. She has been known to tease her trainers with insults, argue over things she feels passionate about and lie to get herself out of trouble.
This is based on viewing, interacting and interpretation by people who "want" this to be successful. Do you see any parallels between this and Geller being tested??

Quote:
Originally posted by Graculus
Critics of the now Dr. Patterson's findings generally focus on points such as (1) cues from trainers prompting speech and (2) sub-par and inconsistent performance on assessments of comprehension. Dr. Patterson rebuttals against the first claim by providing evidence of the spontaneous use 15 days out of a month that is required for a sign to be logged as learned, also many of her tests are performed double-blind, a process in which ensures there is a lack of cues that a tester can give..
Now we are getting somewhere - anybody know where the test protocols for this is online?

Quote:
Originally posted by Graculus
... while Koko has not ever seen a real alligator she knows the sign and is afraid of toy alligators. ... When one of Dr. Patterson's assistants had prepared a snack for Koko but was slow in delivering it Koko signed “Alligator chase lip” (lip is a term Koko uses lip idiosyncratically for girl or woman). While there was no obviously no alligator present Koko used a sign associated with fear to her as a threat to what might happen if she is not served her snack promptly.
Seems rather anecdotal, uncontrolled and interpreted to me.

Quote:
Originally posted by Graculus
Being that Koko rarely ever speaks in complete sentences
But she does sometimes?? Why do we think that is? Was the actual sentences she formed just a case of luck? 7 or 8 sequential signs just happened to come in such a way that the researcher could interpret it as a sentence or was it genuinely a sentence?

Quote:
Originally posted by Graculus
it is easy for skeptics to conclude that she does not have grammaticality. However, the information that Koko is provided in sign language is hardly ever anything but broken language and the structure of her utterances generally follow correct verb-noun and noun-verb-noun forms.
[/b]
It seems there has been (from this extract) some double blinded tests, lets look at those first and put interpreted and anecdotal "evidence" to one side!

It interests me that a statement such as "also many of her tests are performed double-blind, a process in which ensures there is a lack of cues that a tester can give" in this case seems to be accepted and yet if we were discussing "psychics" people would be demanding to see the test protocols and the results of the testing etc. Science is science and the same rigor should be applied to everything not just the things we "think" are bogus.

I am happy to keep reading and digging on this, but from what I have read so far I am still very much on the fence.
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Old 29th September 2004, 06:02 AM   #33
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There is no "rhymes" in sign language! It's supposed to be sign language, not english! So much for being able to understand sign language.
There is nothing wrong with Koko's hearing.
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Old 29th September 2004, 06:27 AM   #34
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Quote:
Originally posted by Graculus
Why the heck WOULDN'T you teach "nipples" to a girl gorilla? Besides, maybe she asked.
http://www.freecitymedia.com/KokoText.html

Quote:
The following is an interview with Koko and Dina Pettit, Lead Gorilla Caregiver, and also features Koko's responses as documented by Dr. Penny Patterson, founder of the Koko Project.

< snip >

FCM: Do you see her playing with dolls - as social play, an as outlet for her nurturing and maternal spirit?

Yes, Koko does use her dolls in both of these ways. Koko often cradles and kisses her favorite dolls. She is especially maternal with her gorilla and other primate dolls. She likes to hold them to her nipples as if they are nursing, and sometimes even molds their hands into signs. Koko has also been observed having her alligator dolls bite other dolls, or even herself or Penny. She also sometimes uses her toy alligators to "scare" her human companions by jabbing them at her mesh during chase games.
< snip >
< change of subject >

Quote:
FCM Question to Koko: If other gorillas could paint do you think they'd like to do it?

FCM Question to Koko: You use a lot of red in your paintings. Is red your favorite color to paint with? Why do you like it?

Dr. Penny Patterson: Why is your favorite color red?
Koko: There. (pointing to her doll's pink dress) Lip. (Koko rubs her lip and her doll's lip)
PP: Oh, because lips are red!
K: That red red. (pointing to red flower on fabric)
K: Nipple there Nipple. (pointing to the piece of paper Penny has with the interview questions on it)
PP: Yes, questions from people. (Koko often uses the word nipple to mean people.)
Wow. Massive assumptions on the part of PP. And gratuitous interpretations on behalf of the interviewer: "Oh, because lips are red!" No, that's not what the gorilla said. What the gorilla said was, "Doll dress. Lip."

How does PP know the gorilla didn't simply hear her question as, "Color red?" and so she obligingly pointed to "something red" (except that "pink" is not "red". However, she's been compared to 3-year-olds, and a 3-year-old doesn't yet know the difference between "pink" and "red". Indeed, Threes are still learning what all the colors are. That's the point of all that Sesame Street singing about "colors".)

Anyway, that's the way a 3-year-old child would hear the question: "Color red?" A 3-year-old doesn't understand the concept of "what's your favorite color?" If pressed to name one, to please a teacher or parent, they will name a color, but it's not really their "favorite color", not the way an older child really will have a favorite color like purple or pink and will be totally obsessed with it, the lunchbox, the sneakers, the umbrella, etc. all have to be That Color. To preschoolers, one color has the same value as another (speaking here as a mom of three and as a former room parent).

Quote:
FCM Question to Koko: Why do you like kittens? (Does Koko have a sign for cute?)

PP: Why like kittens better than puppies? Koko puts flowered scarf on her head, then kisses a small blonde haired doll and puts it to her nipple.
PP: Because we bring kitties in blankets?
Koko does not respond.
PP: Any other reason you like kittens?
K: Cat (signed 4 times on left cheek) cat (signed on right cheek), then moves her hand down her muzzle area (possibly short muzzle??)
PP: I'm having trouble with that sign.
K: Cat cat.
PP: You like kittens because...
K: Cat good (Koko puts her hand to her nipple, but Penny can't tell if it is the sign nipple, or a variation.)
Besides yet more examples of the observer bringing massive assumptions to the proceedings...Can I repeat that last sentence? "Penny can't tell if it is the sign nipple, or a variation." Obviously there are many times when interpretation is called for--"what sign was that, that she just made?" And obviously someone with a vested interest in proving that the gorilla is just a different kind of human being will tend to interpret the signs so as to reinforce that belief.

And, again, a 3-year-old child would not be able to answer the question, "Why do you like kitties?" either. It's too abstract. What the questioner will get will be a long pause, and then a shy, "I dunno..."

I read both these "conversations" as the human asking abstract questions that the gorilla doesn't understand, but the gorilla is gamely trying to participate by signing things that she considers may have some bearing on what the human is getting at, the way when you ask your dog, "Do you like going to the movies?" she brings you the leash, and then she brings her favorite dog toy, and then she runs to her dog dish, and then she runs around in circles in "play invitation behavior". From the dog's POV, she's not sure what you're getting at, but she heard "do you like" and "go to", and in the past, those always meant "play" or "ride in car" or sometimes "special food".
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Old 29th September 2004, 06:45 AM   #35
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Quote:
Quote:
Patterson explains: Nipple rhymes with people, she doesn't sign people per se, she was trying to do a "sounds like..."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



There is no "rhymes" in sign language! It's supposed to be sign language, not english! So much for being able to understand sign language.
Graculus: The point is nothing to do with Koko's hearing. The point is, she has been taught to communicate by using hand signals that correspond to certain words or concepts. But there are no sounds that go along with those words or concepts. That's the way ASL works. ASL is silent. Sometimes the signing person may mouth the words, but there are no sounds that correspond to the hand signals.

"Rhymes" in ASL are signs that are similar. ASL poetry consists of hand signals that are similar.

Now think about "words that rhyme"--words rhyme because they sound alike.

However, in ASL, sounds don't count. Sounds are irrelevant.

Like all deaf human students being taught ASL, Koko has not been taught to listen to the sounds that come out of humans' mouths and decide whether they sound alike (i.e. "rhyme") or not. Also, normally-hearing children need to be taught this skill ("recognizing words that rhyme"), which is something that happens during the kindergarten year. Children do not normally recognize that "some words sound alike". They have to be taught it.

Now, like any other well-trained animal, a sheepdog, for example, Koko has learned that the hand signals and the spoken words frequently go together, and mean the same thing. A sheepdog is able to respond either to whistles or hand signals, or both together. And thus Koko is able to respond to what the humans say as well as what they sign.

But in this instance, PP is once again making assumptions and interpreting what the gorilla is saying to conform with her own biases.

Adding: Sheepdogs do sometimes mis-hear a similar-sounding word and think it means a command, so it's conceivable that Koko could hear "people" if someone said it to her, and think it was "nipple", or vice versa. But as for her deliberately choosing to signal "nipple" for "people"--no, I don't see that "knowing words that rhyme" is one of her skills. That's something only a kindergartener would be able to do. And actually, "nipple" and "people" don't rhyme (it's a poetic license trick called "assonance"), so if you asked a kindergartner whether "nipple" and "people" rhyme, he would confidently say, "No." It takes an older child to understand the concept of assonance and poetic license.
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Old 29th September 2004, 07:08 AM   #36
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Quote:
Originally posted by Goshawk

Wow. Massive assumptions on the part of PP.
Again, I don't think it is reasonable to expect interpretations of these exchanges to be free of this element. Communication between humans is VERY dependent on 'massive assumptions' on the part of the listener (and the speaker as well, who must make assumptions in order to anticipate what assumptions the listener is likely to make).
Quote:
I read both these "conversations" as the human asking abstract questions that the gorilla doesn't understand, but the gorilla is gamely trying to participate by signing things that she considers may have some bearing on what the human is getting at
Except for the use of the word 'gorilla', that is not a bad description of the nature of exchanges that take place on this forum every day. Does this mean that the participants are not truly using language?
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Old 29th September 2004, 07:16 AM   #37
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ashles
Actually, come to think of it, why have they been teaching Koko about nipples at all? I mean, if you had to write a vocabulary for a different species, how high up your list would 'nipple' really be?

Would it be higher than 'girl' or 'woman'?

After all, apparently, 'Koko uses lip idiosyncratically for girl or woman'.

Why would a gorilla start using language ideosyncratically in place of the actual words?

If I wanted to talk to a gorilla, I honestly think it would be a real long time before I taught the gorilla about nipples.
Whoa! Does this mean there's been some sorta hanky panky going with Koko?

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Think about it. Your precious ''rational and predictable world'' may just be an illusion created by God's enemy. --1inChrist
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Old 29th September 2004, 07:26 AM   #38
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Quote:
Originally posted by Goshawk
Wow. Massive assumptions on the part of PP. And gratuitous interpretations on behalf of the interviewer: "Oh, because lips are red!" No, that's not what the gorilla said. What the gorilla said was, "Doll dress. Lip."
Quote:
Besides yet more examples of the observer bringing massive assumptions to the proceedings...Can I repeat that last sentence? "Penny can't tell if it is the sign nipple, or a variation." Obviously there are many times when interpretation is called for--"what sign was that, that she just made?" And obviously someone with a vested interest in proving that the gorilla is just a different kind of human being will tend to interpret the signs so as to reinforce that belief.
Why do I look at PP's "interpretations" of what Koko's signing and keep getting images of John ("Crossing Over") Edward? Is it because he can turn almost anything his mark says into confirmation of what he's selling?
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Old 29th September 2004, 07:29 AM   #39
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Quote:
Originally posted by BPSCG
[b]Why do I look at PP's "interpretations" of what Koko's signing and keep getting images of John ("Crossing Over") Edward? Is it because he can turn almost anything his mark says into confirmation of what he's selling?
Hah! Maybe that's our difficulty here. Koko is in fact a spirit medium and she's communicating with the dead. We see how much trouble John Edward has picking up on a simple name, for a gorilla it must be much more difficult.

I now believe that Koko was trying to tell about a dead person who had suffered a toothache.

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but how do you know Satan didn't plant other gods, saviors and demons in history? YOU DON'T Every argument made by anti-God people are based on naturalistic presuppositions and Satan could very well be behind these presuppositions.

Think about it. Your precious ''rational and predictable world'' may just be an illusion created by God's enemy. --1inChrist
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Old 29th September 2004, 07:44 AM   #40
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Quote:
Originally posted by Goshawk


Graculus: The point is nothing to do with Koko's hearing. The point is, she has been taught to communicate by using hand signals that correspond to certain words or concepts. But there are no sounds that go along with those words or concepts. That's the way ASL works. ASL is silent. Sometimes the signing person may mouth the words, but there are no sounds that correspond to the hand signals...
[/quote]
That's not how Patterson trained Koko, according to videos I've seen.
She voices the words and signs at the same time. Koko understands some spoken words without signing.
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