Word-detecting baboons are a tough read | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News

Word-detecting baboons are a tough read

Studies differ on whether monkeys learn to recognize letter combinations

By
3:43pm, November 19, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Baboons use the order of regularly appearing letter pairs to tell words from nonwords, new evidence suggests.

Psychologist Jonathan Grainger of the University of Aix-Marseille reported earlier this year that baboons can learn to tell real four-letter words from nonsense words (SN: 5/5/12, p. 5). But whether these animals detect signature letter combinations that enable their impressive word feats has been tough to demonstrate.

Monkeys that previously learned to excel on this task are more likely to mistake nonwords created by reversing two letters of a word they already recognize as real, much as literate people do, Grainger reported November 16 at the Psychonomics Society annual meeting.

“Letters played a role in baboons’ word knowledge,” Grainger concluded. “This is a starting point for determining how they discriminate words from nonwords.”

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content