Essay Sample on Comparative Animal Behavior

Published: 2022-11-30
Essay Sample on Comparative Animal Behavior
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Animals Behavior
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1583 words
14 min read

The Fully Conscious Ape is a peer-reviewed journal article by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh from Missouri State University in the United States. Other scholars include Itai Roffman from the Yezreel Valley College in Israel. There is Sabatien Lingomo from La Foret des Bonobos in Congo, and Elizabeth Pugh from Great Ape Trust of Iowa, United States. The motivation for the study came from their need to provide clarity between human and animals' cognition. There is a need to avoid explaining animal behavior from a human perspective. The attribution of human characteristics and behaviors to non-human entities is known as anthropomorphism. Students of animal behavior or comparative psychology have come to realize that anthropomorphism is a mistake and should be avoided at all costs. Previous studies on the topic of animal behavior were done within the field of comparative psychology or Primate behavior. The advancement of technology has allowed researchers to conduct their tests of primate skills using joysticks. The introduction of technology in the field of animal research allowed scientists to refer to the mental actions of non-human entities as "thinking," or "cognition." Technological innovation made it possible for scientists to attribute thinking and high-level cognition to animals as computer programs became increasingly complex to the point of going beyond the framework of stimulus-response in animal behavior. When the AIs appeared, they started making real-time decisions, asking questions and offering real-time answers to the questions. However, none of these developments provides the answer to the questions as to whether AI programs or monkeys are engaging in more than high-level correlation analytic processes. Other than that, for humans, the case has already been established. Humans can recognize bikes, traffic lights, and storefronts in a group of photos. That is a trait that sets us apart from computers. Therefore, the research article seeks to establish whether then non-human primates can think as human primates do.

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The primary research method for gathering data was the use of secondary sources. They use research studies conducted in an earlier time by Duane Rumbaugh to determine the thinking capability of monkeys. Rumbaugh had used the technique of transfer index. According to Savage-Rumbaugh, Roffman, Lingomo, & Pugh (2018), the transfer index is a paradigm that was developed from discrimination-reversal learning and learning set tasks. Also, for the monkeys, Rumbaugh and her team developed a shaping task for the monkeys. The shaping task allowed the monkeys to master the use of joysticks. The skinner box is also another method in which the researchers used in conducting their studies. The skinner box technique is the separation of a pigeon from other pigeons and any environmental elements that may divert its attention, except for the one in the box. The researcher then manipulates the pigeon using the stimuli that are left in the box to study the pigeon's reaction. The fault in the Skinner box technique is that it prevents any generalization that extends beyond the box because several stimuli that compete for the pigeon's attention exist outside the box. There is also the overpowering method which forces the animal to submit to the researcher's wishes rather than the animals' desires. However, Savage-Rumbaugh et al.,(2018), advices against the overpowering technique because the use of force generates emotions which interfere with the study results. Alternatively, they recommend shaping the behavior of the animal through small steps which become a routine for the animal. They also don't think the reward is necessary. The techniques that the researchers recommend are taught to comparative psychologists at an early stage. However, scientists in linguistics, primatology, biology, and anthropology, are often not aware of the recommended techniques which causes a great deal of confusion in the cross-disciplinary teams that try to address factors such as cognition in primates or intention in dogs.


The researchers found out that it is not possible to control adult apes or adult humans unless by using sedation, overpowering them or explaining to them. According to Savage-Rumbaugh et al., (2018), explaining or demonstrating is the only acceptable way to alter the behavior of humans or apes. The results indicate that the capacity of language influences apes' ability to have self control through speech and self-monitoring. Furthermore, new awareness changes the way apes view humans. The research could not provide answers to the capability of monkeys to acquire self-awareness. However, the data indicated that the kind of awareness of awareness either exists or does not. In the joystick experiment, there is partial evidence that indicated that monkeys learn and that they are accomplishing the task with some self-awareness of their actions. The research also indicated that deprivation of apes during the early years results in serious behavioral changes and negative cognitive damages. When apes are denied proper maternal care, they become violent and unpredictable. When the proper emotional bonding fails to occur in apes, they fail to develop the ability to process language. Those findings significantly differ from other studies that fail to take into account the first three years. The other studies fail to list the rearing histories of the apes in their papers. Research findings from Christian and Charter indicated that the brain is capable of processing information or input at a level that doesn't require grammatical processor (Savage-Rumbaugh et al., 2018). The Christian and Charter observed that the brain is purely capable of producing syntactical parsers from the quasi-regularities of language. Scientists have realized that dialogue is what's responsible for developing representation, meaning, and reference among speakers. The experiment with two chimpanzees who began using symbols to communicate with each other indicated that language is an interindividual process that is shared by at least two brains.


The researchers concluded that earlier studies by scholars like Terrance failed to address the real question by failing to determine the real meaningfulness of words that they taught and were used by their chimpanzees. Terrance had concluded that only humans are capable of language. On the other hand, Rumbaugh came to the same conclusion as Bolhuis that language is a computational cognitive mechanism that has a hierarchical syntactic structure at its core (Savage-Rumbaugh et al., 2018). However, Rumbaugh extended his conclusion to point out that language emerged because of some form of orderly interaction with the world via processes such as learning sets, learning to learn, associative pairings, discriminations, and other learning processes in the context of actual language use. The researchers extended their conclusion because they refused to accept that language structure developed from an innate computational structure based on lack of evidence. According to the study, the fact that DeWaal, Tomasello, and Matsuzawa decided to forego the replication of the methods employed by Kanzi, Austin, Lana, and Sherman create doubt on the authenticity of their negative conclusions about the capacity of apes to develop language. The authors proceed to state that the positive findings of the article are justifiable by replicating the research. However, they find the idea of linking trained bonobos to apes that have a comprehension of the English language, to be a better idea because it is cost-efficient. The authors are convinced that with a proper introduction to the media, combined with the internet, scholars could undertake many situations that foster linguistic communication between groups. Also, the documentation and exploration of language production could be facilitated. The main problem, according to Savage-Rumbaugh et al., (2018), is the politics of science that seek to continue to mischaracterize apes about their true nature and abilities, in a bid to continue employing apes as biomedical subjects.


As a qualitative research paper, the authors manage to fulfill the paper requirements to explore the concepts of the study. The article has given insights and developed ideas into the idea of animal behavior. The authors have built their research on previous studies; hence they have uncovered the trends in topics, thoughts, and opinions in the field of animal behavior. The primary objective of the paper was to find the answer to the question of the capacity of non-human primates to think on the same level as the human primates. Based on the data collected and analyzed, the researchers found out that the non-human primates do have the capacity to think as the human primates do. Also, Savage-Rumbaugh et al.,(2018) wanted to find the primary cause of confusion in the field of animal behavior. Their findings managed to point towards the politics of science. However, in regards to their methodology, they came a little short. There is a lack of coherence in regards to their methods, and it makes it difficult for the reader to follow through and replicate the methods of study. The use of stimuli such as joysticks was well chosen because of its ability to solicit a response from the subjects. It is also readily available making it plausible for other scholars to try and replicate the research. Comparative animal behavior is a worthy area of study because it provides limitless possibilities to the understanding of the human brain. By understanding the thinking capacity of non-human primates and their cognition, humans can use the insights to assist in brain mapping. Their conclusions aligned with the data they gathered from other studies, and that is specifically the thing that I like about the research. The article heavily relied on previous studies from Duane Rumbaugh whom Savage-Rumbaugh acknowledges at the end of the paper, as being her mentor in the field of psychology.


Savage-Rumbaugh, S., Roffman, I., Lingomo, S., & Pugh, E. (2018). The fully conscious ape. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 31(0). Retrieved from

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