Gardener and Gardener

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Gardener and Gardener - Aims and Context

  • Chomsky (1957) humans have a special language aquisition device, so animals can not acquire language
  • Hayes and Hayes (1952) taught 4 spoken words to Viki (6 years)
  • Features of language include semanticity, productivity and displacement 
  • Vocal language is not appropriate for chops as they only vocalise in instances of of high distress or excitment and have different vocal apparatus


to investigate if they could teach a chimp to communicate using a human language, specifically that of American Sign language

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Gardener and Gardener - Procedures

  • Washoe was a wiuld caught female chimp, around 8-14 months, raised like a child
  • Always with atleast one companion who played and spoke ASL, chattering as with an infant
  • Washoe was kept as a child, woken, fed, washed and played with at cetain times
  • Training: imitation of signs for rewards, prompting (shown correct signs and asked to immitate) using signs (all objects were named using ASL), manual babbling (parent figure mimics and encourages) operant conditioning (rewards used) shaping (rewarded in incriments for getting closer to the sign) direct tuition ( shaping Washoe's hands)
  • Observation: 
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Gardener and Gardener - Findings and Conclusions

  • Within 22 months 30 words were learnt eg. (more, sweet, open, tickle)
  • 4 other words were stable (dog, smell, me, clean)
  • Imitation - Washoe imitated freely but no control was gained until 16 months
  • Babbling - babbling was encouraged and the sign for funny was learnt this way
  • Instrumental conditioning - washoe was shown signs for more in response to her wanting to be tickled
  • Me and you allowed simple sentences to be formed
  • Median score of 29 words used in a day

CONCLUSIONS: there is an element of looking for hierarchy of communuication skills, its difficult to say if Washoe has learnt a language, as she does pair signs to different meanings, she may have learnt language 

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Gardener and Gardener - Methodology

  • Design: case study: cannot be generalised to others, lots of qualatative data
  • Ethics: this study triggered the belief that if animals could use human language they should also have human rights, Washoe was taken from her natural habitat, Washoe was alienated from chimps and made to be human 
  • Reliability: as 3 observers had to report seeing Washoe's sign spontaneously and appropriatly it is reliable
  • Validity: observer bias as observers knew Washoe well, may be use of ques so Washoe hasnt learnt language, hard to generalise
  • Sample: only one chimp
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Gardener and Gardener - Alternative Evidence

  • Terrace et al (1979) analysis of the the 35 multi sign sequence which Washow used in the film, criticises the degree to which her language is productive
  • Gardener et al (1989) Moja, Tatu and Dar, siblings. used language mainly in the form of dialogue
  • Savage- Rumbaugh et al (1986) Kanzi the bonobo could use a lexigram, she wanted to communicate for companionship, showing a greater propensity for language
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