Baboons Can Learn Words Like Humans

Learning how to identify, spell and write words is a common reserve for humans who relay on books. However, baboons have proved themselves capable of not only distinguishing between words and non-words, but also identifying similar words.According to Jonathan Grainger who works as a psychologist at the University of Aix-Marseille,the ability of baboons to identify written text and make good distinctions between real and nonsense words is a clear indication that the brain uses different centers to decipher written scripts and derive meanings.This study also disapproved the belief that speaking out words preceded reading during language development in children. Instead, it revealed that children begin to master literary skills by identifying letters and matching them to known sounds.

Grainger’s discovery gave insight into how reading skills develop.The investigation revealed that reading begins from sight,and further demonstrated that primates just like humans, rely on what they have seen and stored in the brain to identify, distinguish and learn real words.This was confirmed when this psychologist got baboons learn a series of four-letter words and differentiate real from nonsense words.

Stanislas Dehaene, a French neurologist at the INSERM-CEA Cognitive neuroimaging unit,Gif-Sur-Yvette refered to this kind of model as “the recognition of visual word form”.In a similar arrangemnt and investigation, Grainger studied this phenomenon using a research facility with indoor and outdoor sections.Baboons were required to identify four letter words on a computer screen and receive a token for every correct identification of words. Amazingly, the baboons came in through opennings on the walls and were able to identify similar-sounding words such as done and vast. They were also able to identify even four letter nonsense words like datr and dnoe. They carefully followed the instructions and touched an oval shape whenever a word was not real; meeting all the expectations of the study.

While food acted as an incentive for the baboons,the learning experince actually came from the ability to visually identify different objects. Grainger managed to get individual baboons to learn between 81 and 308 from a pool of almost 7000 nonsense words with remarkable accuracy.The study revealed that the monkeys did not necessarily memorize words, but relied on letter combinations to tell whether the word was real or bogus. This way, the monkeys were able to correctly identify nonwords as bogus more times than they failed to recognize real words. Grainger argued that if the baboons lacked knowledge of letter patterns, then they would have easily failed to recognize many unfamilier words as real.

This study provides a basis for the study on whether the parts of the baboon brains that aid in letter and word recognition, correspond to those of humans. So far Dahaene and other neurologists believe that the left brain is activated by reading which is associated with recalling visual forms. These neurologists use this concept to explain why learning of letter objects precede writing.Based on such outcomes, scientists can unearth the causes of dyslexia in young children.

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