Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Baboons display 'reading' skills, study suggests; Monkeys identify specific combinations of letters in words

Date:
April 16, 2012
Source:
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)
Summary:
Learning to read is not just to do with speech, but also with the ability to recognize and memorize regular patterns among the letters that make up words, according to a new study on baboons. New results show that monkeys identify specific combinations of letters in words and detect anomalies -- a capacity that certainly existed before speech.

Baboon foot hitting a word on the screen to indicate if it is an English word.
Credit: Image courtesy of CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)

Learning to read is not just to do with speech, but also with the ability to recognize and memorize regular patterns among the letters that make up words, according to a new study on baboons. New results show that monkeys identify specific combinations of letters in words and detect anomalies -- a capacity that certainly existed before speech.

How do humans learn to distinguish between correctly and incorrectly spelt words? What mechanisms allow them to recognize, in just a few hundred milliseconds, that "animal" is a word but "azimal" is not? It was long thought that this capacity stemmed from spoken language because children learn spelling based on the oral language skills that they have already acquired, for example putting "m" and "a" together to make the sound "ma," "d" and "a" to make "da," etc. Understanding of spelling thus seems closely related to speech.

However, a team of researchers at the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive (Cognitive Psychology Laboratory, CNRS/Aix-Marseille University) in Marseille has now challenged that theory through a study carried out on baboons. Their experiment consisted in showing the monkeys words made up of four letters on a touch screen.

The baboons were taught to press an oval shape if the word was spelt correctly or a cross if it was not, and were rewarded with a piece of cereal for each right answer. In just a few days -- and after several thousands tries -- the baboons learned to distinguish English words like "bank" from similar nonwords like "jank." More surprisingly still, after memorizing the spelling of several dozen words, the baboons gave right answers for words that they had never seen before. This suggests that they did not memorize the overall shape of the words, although they certainly would have the ability to do so. According to the researchers, the monkeys can detect and memorize regular patterns in the organization of words: they are able to learn frequent letter combinations in English words, and thus detect anomalies, i.e. letters not in their usual place.

As far as humans are concerned, these results suggest that reading is based, at least in part, on our capacity to perceive and memorize regular patterns in the components (letters) of an object (the written word). This ability, neither specifically human nor specifically linguistic, most certainly predated the advent of spoken language in the history of human evolution.

See video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbCvHGaejRE


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. Grainger, S. Dufau, M. Montant, J. C. Ziegler, J. Fagot. Orthographic Processing in Baboons (Papio papio). Science, 2012; 336 (6078): 245 DOI: 10.1126/science.1218152

Cite This Page:

CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "Baboons display 'reading' skills, study suggests; Monkeys identify specific combinations of letters in words." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120416125245.htm>.
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). (2012, April 16). Baboons display 'reading' skills, study suggests; Monkeys identify specific combinations of letters in words. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120416125245.htm
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "Baboons display 'reading' skills, study suggests; Monkeys identify specific combinations of letters in words." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120416125245.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids

Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) — New numbers show a decade's worth of changes in the number of kids with disabilities. They suggest mental disabilities are up; physical ones are down. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Weed Wreaks Havoc In New Hampshire

Fake Weed Wreaks Havoc In New Hampshire

Newsy (Aug. 17, 2014) — New Hampshire's governor declared a state of emergency after more than 40 overdoses of synthetic marijuana in one week throughout the state. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins