Lifestyle & Belief

Rise of the apes? (VIDEO)


French researchers found that baboons can distinguish between four-letter words and nonsense letter combinations, in findings published on April 12, 2012 in the journal Science.



We're not likely to have a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" moment... yet.

However, researchers in France found that baboons can distinguish between words formed by four letters and nonsense combinations, according to the BBC.

After training, the baboons were able to pick out actual words, though they were still not capable of reading.

The results suggest that the ability to recognize words might have more to do with object identification than linguistic skill, according to the BBC.

The researchers, Dr. John Grainger and Dr. Joel Fagot from the Aix-Marseille University published their findings in the journal Science.

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The Associated Press described one of the most ambitious test subjects:

"Dan the baboon sits in front of a computer screen. The letters BRRU pop up. With a quick and almost dismissive tap, the monkey signals it's not a word. Correct. Next comes, ITCS. Again, not a word. Finally KITE comes up.

"He pauses and hits a green oval to show it's a word. In the space of just a few seconds, Dan has demonstrated a mastery of what some experts say is a form of pre-reading, and walks away rewarded with a treat of dried wheat."

The baboons in this case, and monkeys in general, are good pattern finders, and the way they pick out words might be how humans first recognize words as well.

In up to 300,000 tests, the six baboons picked out real words three out of four times. Dan, the aforementioned monkey, had an accuracy rate of 80 percent and managed to learn 308 four-letter words, according to the AP.

The scientists also found that the baboons' performance went up because they were voluntarily taking the test rather than being forced to.

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Here is a video report of the experiment, where you can see the monkeys at work, courtesy of USA Today: