Teaching Sign Language to a Chimpanzee Essay

Teaching Sign Language to a Chimpanzee Essay

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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...

... middle of paper ...

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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