The Extraordinary Kinship and Differences Between Humans and Nonhuman Primates If you were to look at an ape right now, you would find an ongoing list of both similarities and differences they have with humans. Besides the obvious similarities and differences, apes and our nonhuman primates are just like us in so many extraordinary ways. However, there are various skills and abilities we possess that they don’t, and vice versa.
Moreover, for the past fifty years anthropologists, scholars and researchers, such as Penny Patterson, have been studying our nonhuman primate’s behaviors, and as expected, they have been arguing about the differences and similarities they have to humans. As many people would say, humans and primates do have similar body features and anatomy. However, something they do not possess, like us humans do, is the ability to speak an elaborate verbal language.
After extensive research, scholars and anthropologists eventually determined that they could communicate with them not by speaking, but by using ASL (American Sign Language), testing the theory that they could not use language. After extensive research and experiments, scholars have finally figured out that unlike most animals, apes can actually communicate with us by using ASL. In the article “Apes and Sign Language,” they talk about how in addition to this amazing discovery; they have also found that they can learn thousands and thousands of words and converse with people in other ways rather than with a spoken language.
Furthermore, the first nonhuman primate to ever learn American Sign Language was a female chimpanzee called Washoe, who as a result of an experiment, managed to attain a vocabulary of more than one hundred signs. In order to have a good outcome of this experiment, every time researchers would go in to the trailer where she lived, they would refrain from saying a single spoken word, nonetheless English, and instead they would always use ASL as their form of communication.
As a result of her picking up those signing skills, she learned how to combine up to five signs into elementary sentences such as “You, me, go, out, hurry,” which typically would translate to something like “Let’s go out, and be quick about it. ” Moreover, this is one of the few amazing similarities humans share with primates, the ability to learn and communicate with a language. Just the thought of being able to speak with someone nonhuman is beyond extraordinary and like many other similarities they share with us, validates and gives more reasons to scientists to xplore and test out other current theories. Additionally, Washoe wasn’t the only nonhuman primate who learned how to use ASL. “Penny, open, key, hurry, bedroom,” signs Koko to Penny Patterson. In the documentary A Conversation with Koko, we met Koko and both researcher and psychologist Penny Patterson from Stanford University. Koko is a five feet, five inch, three hundred pound gorilla that was raised by Penny as a result of health issues she had when she was born.
In this documentary we see how she communicates and acts with Penny, and fellow friends such as her beloved cat All Ball. As the documentary goes on, you notice that Koko expresses her feelings just like an average human would. For instance, when Penny would read to her, her favorite book was about kittens, which to Penny’s surprise, after some time that Koko would ask her to read that certain book over and over, she asked her if she could get a cat for herself.
According to Penny’s book Koko’s Kitten, she chose a gray male Manx, whose breed is known for not having a tail, and named him All Ball. It appeared to Penny that she chose this particular breed of cat because she believed it looked like a baby gorilla. As time went on, there were many photographs taken that amazed the world because they didn’t think they’d ever see a gorilla playing with a cat. Koko loved All Ball, and even then to researcher’s surprise, when Penny informed Koko that a truck had hit him, Koko signed “Frown, cry, frown, sad,” to her.
Later on that day, the producers recorded a scene where Koko was in her trailer, and all you could hear was her sighing and weeping over All Ball. Along with the ability to learn a language, Koko and many other nonhuman primates also show that they have to ability express and show how they’re feeling, especially in situations like these. Despite all the kinship humans have with nonhuman primates and apes, there are other things that differentiate them from rather than just their staggering strength and some of their skeletal structures.
One of the many things that humans have uniquely to themselves is the skill of mind reading. According to the article “What Makes Us Human? ” by John Rubin, he states, “Humans are exceptionally skilled at thinking about what’s on other people’s minds. ” Furthermore, he elaborates on the fact that after various experiments at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, chimpanzees have actually showed that they don’t entirely lack the talent itself. Rather, they just hold a bit of it. Additionally, in the article “The Ape
That Teaches,” scholar Rebecca Saxe explains that a difference among humans and nonhuman primates also is that humans have the ability to be coordinated. “For instance, you can get a one-year old really excited about a game where you hold your end of a stick, and I hold my end, and we both pull to make something happen. And curiously, apes can’t get into that. ” Saxe continues, “So an ape baby or an ape adult isn’t excited by a task whose only pleasure is the coordination of two different individuals joint activity on a third object. Elaborating on the point, Saxe describes how something so simple, yet making it seem to be a big deal can amaze a child, yet have no impact on our nonhuman primates. All in all, thanks to amazing research and experiments, we have found great similarities and differences that show the little things that humans share with primates, and those that differentiate them. Besides the obvious similarities, the abilities anthropologists have discovered show us that they’re not as far south of human ability like we thought. However, like we humans, the nonhuman primates posses various skills that humans have not been able to possess. Just like they don’t have the abilities to do things humans can do like mindreading.
“The Ape That Teaches. ” Ape Genius Nova Website. A Conversation With Koko. Questar, Inc 2004. DVD. Kottak, Conrad “Apes and Sign Language. ” Anthropology, The Exploration of Human Diversity. 2007. Print Patterson, Francine, Koko’s Kitten Scholastic Press, ISBN 1987. Book. Rubin, John. “What Makes Us Human? ” Ape Genius Nova Website.