Monkeys can make "comments": World Science article

Glen M. Sizemore gmsizemore2 at yahoo.com
Sat Sep 4 07:23:50 EST 2004

This is the most ridiculous bunch of crap I have ever read (including
quotes from the researchers). It's exactly like confusing an elicited
response with a discriminated operant. Yeah! Maybe, when I blow a puff
of air into your eye and you blink, your eye-blink is a "comment"
about the puff of air. In fairness to the authors, it is true that the
vocalizations could have an effect on the other monkeys because of
natural selection - in which case the responses would still be
elicited. Now, another possibility is that when Monkey A sees monkey B
doing something to Monkey C, it is a reinforcer for Monkey A if Monkey
D also observes it (the reinforcer would then be aspects of Monkey D's
behavior – the orientation of his body and eyes, and other postural
elements). Here, the reinforcing efficacy of Monkey D's behavior would
be unconditional (unconditioned), and the response would have to be
one that changes from elicitation to operant (like an "autoshaped"
key-peck in the laboratory). Otherwise there is no explanation for
similarity of vocalizations across animals without invoking imitation.
This is a possibility, of course, though I am not arguing in favor of
it. But suffice it to say that when one attempts to describe the
possible KNOWN BEHAVIORAL PROCESSES that could account for the
behavior, one quickly abandons terms like "comments." Is it an
elicited response? Does the presence of other monkeys (the
"listeners") actually matter? At what age do the responses appear? Do
monkeys reared in isolation do it? I'm sure the researchers have asked
themselves questions like this – all of which goes to how stupid were
the scientists own "commentaries."

"Jupiter" <jekluk at aol.com> wrote in message news:<_v6_c.3913$as.1423448 at twister.nyc.rr.com>...
> According to this story in World Science, researchers analyzed monkey calls
> and determined that some of them could only be described as "comments."
> http://www.world-science.net/exclusives/040901_commentfrm.htm
> These were supposedly the first documented monkey calls that appeared to
> make reference to a third party not involved in the vocal exchange. The
> monkeys seemed to be making an observation or a comment about what they were
> seeing, the researchers found.

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