Baboons can learn to recognize words
April 16, 2012 | Source: Nature News
Even though they speak no language, baboons can achieve one of the first steps in reading — the ability to distinguish real words from nonsense on the basis of the arrangement of their letters.
The monkeys’ ability suggests that reading is based on simple object-identification skills, rather than on more advanced linguistic skills, according to Jonathan Grainger of CNRS and Aix-Marseille University in France.
Over 44 days, the animals completed around 50,000 tests. They identified words with an average of 75% accuracy, and learned between 81 and 308 words from the 500 words and more than 7,000 randomly generated nonwords that they were shown.
The researchers concluded that the baboons probably identified the English words by using orthographic information — the identity and position of the letters within the word.
Grainger is particularly interested in the neural attributes of skilled readers, and hopes that the results in baboons will aid in understanding this ability. The study may also help to uncover the causes of reading disabilities such as dyslexia, he adds.
Ref.: Leila Haghighat, Baboons can learn to recognize words, Nature, 2012; [DOI:10.1038/nature.2012.10432]
Ref.: Jonathan Grainger, Orthographic Processing in Baboons (Papio papio), Science, 2012; [DOI:10.1126/science.1218152]
Ref.: Michael L. Platt, Geoffrey K. Adams, Monkey See, Monkey Read, Science; 2012; [DOI:10.1126/science.1221402]