Author Topic: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.  (Read 2027 times)

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Offline daniel1948

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Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« on: July 05, 2018, 07:32:41 PM »
Well, maybe she did, but we can't really know. Turns out, according to the latest episode of Skeptoid, that everything we thought we knew ("we" being the general public; I might be the last skeptic to have found this out) about apes using sign language has been based on books and journalism from the researchers themselves, not from any peer-reviewed studies. Koko's handler, Francine Patterson, interpreted all of Koko's signs, and according to people who have reviewed the available tapes and other material, Koko was incapable of constructing sentences, and all she (and other signing apes) have ever been able to use signs for is begging. Lots of animals learn begging signals. Your dog is an expert, if you have a dog. Further, one report stated that in a TV appearance, Koko never made a sign that Patterson had not made immediately before. The same is true of all other signing apes. Patterson never published a scientific paper on Koko. Everything "we" knew comes from the popular press.

Audio and transcript of the Skeptoid episode here.

Audio also available wherever you get podcasts. (Yeah, I know some folks don't like Dunning because of his criminal history. I still enjoy the show. And anyway, I'm an ex-con too.)
Daniel
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2018, 08:55:22 PM »
Daniel, if what you’ve understood from the various discussions of Dunning on this forum is that some of us don’t like him “because of his criminal history,” then you’ve completely misunderstood everything that we’ve quite clearly said on the subject.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2018, 09:35:15 PM »
Want to talk about Koko rather than about Dunning in this thread?
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Online John Albert

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2018, 07:07:25 AM »
Koko is the new Harambe

Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2018, 09:00:11 AM »
There is already a thread about this, there has been skepticism from the 80s that just wasn't reported in the media as much as, "isn't it awesome that there is a signing gorilla!"

https://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,11164.msg253580.html#msg253580

Its an interesting illustration of how the media can really be credulous at times and thus mislead the rest of us.  But in the end, not really important otherwise.

Offline daniel1948

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2018, 09:37:41 AM »
There is already a thread about this, there has been skepticism from the 80s that just wasn't reported in the media as much as, "isn't it awesome that there is a signing gorilla!"

https://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,11164.msg253580.html#msg253580

Its an interesting illustration of how the media can really be credulous at times and thus mislead the rest of us.  But in the end, not really important otherwise.

Thanks for posting that. But the thread is from 2008. If I had been aware of it I probably wouldn't have resurrected it. At least it confirms what I speculated: That lots of people already knew about this before me.

I was always skeptical of apes using syntactically complex language. What I didn't realize was that all the've ever really done is produce the sign for something they wanted. And I didn't realize that Koko's signs are always immediate repetitions of Patterson's signs, or the extent to which Patterson "interprets" (i.e. fudges) Koko's intentions.

I can easily believe that Koko had a pet cat. Lots of animals form bonds with other animals. There are instances of cats and dogs getting along together, as well as some other surprising combinations. And animals do communicate, with us and with each other. They just don't do it with abstract or syntactic language. (I have no idea about cetaceans.)
Daniel
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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
-- Otto von Bismarck

Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2018, 11:04:49 AM »
Funny, I thought there was a more recent discussion on this topic than 2008. 

I can easily believe that Koko had a pet cat. Lots of animals form bonds with other animals. There are instances of cats and dogs getting along together, as well as some other surprising combinations. And animals do communicate, with us and with each other. They just don't do it with abstract or syntactic language. (I have no idea about cetaceans.)
I read an article awhile back regarding this. It seems animals that do a lot of shared parenting are more likely to adopt other species.  Lionesses in the wild have been seen to attempt to raise the offspring of recent meals.  IIRC, female gorillas will share the parenting duties of each others offspring.  So, Koko's cat fits that hypothesis.

Online Noisy Rhysling

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2018, 11:21:03 AM »
"Kittens are cute" is a good working hypothesis.
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Online John Albert

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2018, 04:57:16 PM »
There is already a thread about this, there has been skepticism from the 80s that just wasn't reported in the media as much as, "isn't it awesome that there is a signing gorilla!"

https://sguforums.com/index.php/topic,11164.msg253580.html#msg253580

Its an interesting illustration of how the media can really be credulous at times and thus mislead the rest of us.  But in the end, not really important otherwise.

Thanks for posting that. But the thread is from 2008. If I had been aware of it I probably wouldn't have resurrected it. At least it confirms what I speculated: That lots of people already knew about this before me.

I was always skeptical of apes using syntactically complex language. What I didn't realize was that all the've ever really done is produce the sign for something they wanted. And I didn't realize that Koko's signs are always immediate repetitions of Patterson's signs, or the extent to which Patterson "interprets" (i.e. fudges) Koko's intentions.

I can easily believe that Koko had a pet cat. Lots of animals form bonds with other animals. There are instances of cats and dogs getting along together, as well as some other surprising combinations. And animals do communicate, with us and with each other. They just don't do it with abstract or syntactic language. (I have no idea about cetaceans.)

I was going to point out that such skepticism among psychologists has been around for a long time.

Animal researchers often seem to exhibit some weird beliefs about the creatures with whom they work so closely. Jane Goodall, for example, has also expressed belief in bigfoot.

Online gmalivuk

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2018, 01:27:15 PM »
Funny, I thought there was a more recent discussion on this topic than 2008. 
Well there are a couple years of post history that just disappeared due to server issues, iirc on one side or the other of 2012, so you might be remembering something from thenabouts.
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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2018, 03:39:02 PM »
Funny, I thought there was a more recent discussion on this topic than 2008. 
Well there are a couple years of post history that just disappeared due to server issues, iirc on one side or the other of 2012, so you might be remembering something from thenabouts.

We don't talk about that period.

Offline amysrevenge

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Re: Koko didn't want a kitten after all.
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2018, 05:05:57 PM »
Shhhh you're talking about it
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