Cognitive Psychology Core Study - Savage-Rumbaugh

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  • Created by: Louisa
  • Created on: 14-12-12 13:35

Savage-Rumbaugh Revision Notes

Aim of Study

  • To provide case study on first non-human to acquire symbols without specific training
  • To compare pygmy chimps with another species of chimpanzee, the common chimp - Sherman and Austin


  • Kanzi and Mulika were pygmy chimps
  • Pygmy apes have more natural eye contact, gestures and vocalisations than other apes
  • Previous research has shown greater cognitive ablitites in pygmy chimps

Method and Design

  • The case study was conducted over 17 months
  • It wasn't an experiment set up to produce findings
  • The events that happened were written up

Data Collection Method

All lexigram usage was recorded by computer:

  • Kanzi from 30-47 months
  • Mulika from 11-21 months

Records kept of:

  • When lexigram was used
  • Whether it was correct or incorrect

Whether is was:

  • Spontaneous - initiated by Kanzi or Mulika
  • Imitated - part of prior researcher's utterance
  • Structured - related to researcher's question so correct answer was known

Appropriate use:

  • If behaviour verified spontaneous utterances, 9/10 times
  • For example, if Kanzi said he wanted to go to the tree house, he had to take the researcher to the tree house.


Communication System

Geometric Symbols

  • These light up when touched (speaking)
  • Words are vocalised synthetically

American Sign Language

  • 100 signs were used by researchers

Method with use of the Communication System

  • Any or all of the above were used by researchers and chimps
  • Kanzi stayed with his mother until he was two and a half years old
  • Matata was informaally taught symbols/used keyboard
  • Keyboard was used in ordinary daily life
  • Teachers would comment on what was happening by touching keyboard e.g 'teachers name' 'tickle' 'Kanzi'
  • Food was placed in 17 places in the forest
  • Photo of food was placed at location e.g. photo of bananas, at the bottom of tree and bananas put in the tree house in the the tree
  • Kanzi had photos of all food and would choose which one he wanted to go and find
  • Researcher with no knowledge of foods or locations was taken into wood by Kanzi, who initiated route, and pointed to picture or lexigram to show next food stop, then took researcher to that place
  • Kanzi asked to help e.g. changing beds, laundry and food preparation
  • He was allowed to play, watch videos (which had lexigram overlays
  • Researchers asked what things were, or asked him to pick up objects to test informally
  • Formal Tests used: 

-Where lexigrams were presented and Kanzi asked to choose lexigram of specific object

-Where pictures were presented and Kanzi asked to choose lexigram for specific object

-Where words were spoken (either by human or synthesiser) and Kanzi related picture/lexigram from choice


  • Inter-rater reliability
  • Computer recording
  • Formal tests with randomised words

Words were not repeated in test, not paired with same pictures


  • At one and a half years, Kanzi showed interest in keyboard symbols

-He touched symbols and ran to where food appeared as





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