Teaching Sign Language to a Chimpanzee

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Teaching Sign Language to a Chimpanzee

The study by the Gardner's educated psychologists about how they

should conduct their studies. Also through negative methodology the

study showed the importance of sustaining validity in a study. Many

aspects of the study can be replicated in order to increase validity

of a study, and also many considerations are highlighted through the

Gardners' study. According to Gardner and Gardner, 'the results of

project Washoe presented the first serious challenge to the doctrine

that only human beings have language'. This statement meant that the

Gardner's firmly believed that there study sustained a high level of

both reliability and validity, which in turn they believed increased

the generalisability of the study.

The aim of the study was to demonstrate that a chimpanzee does has the

capability to use human language. This study was conducted in order to

explore the possibility of communicating with animals. Everyone agrees

that animals can communicate with each other; the disagreement, which

Gardner and Gardner wished to explore, was whether they can use

something similar to human language to do this. The failure of the

early studies to encourage chimpanzees to use speech sounds led the

Gardners to look for a different mode of controlled communication. The

expressive qualities of a chimpanzee's natural gestures meant that the

language chosen was American Sign Language (ASL). This thoughtful

choice of ASL meant that the studies reliability and validity was

increased in a number of ways. It answered to critics of previous

studies of a chimp just imitating sign language, which was symbolic

for th...

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natural context.

Although the reliability of the study is widely accepted, the validity

is constantly questioned. Not all psychologists agree that Washoe did

acquire language. The debate centres on the difficulty of defining

language. By the end of the 32nd month, Washoe had proven that she had

acquired semanticity, ability to demonstrate displacement, and was

creative in words as when she combined words. But, one criterion,

which is used as a demonstration of language, is structure dependence.

Washoe did not always seem to care about 'sign order.' This lack of

ability supports the argument that only humans have the innate

propensity to acquire language, and that the study was merely

reiterating the demand characteristics that Washoe was encouraged to

perform, and so, arguably, was invalid in proving its aim.
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