Baboons Can Recognize Words
Baboons can learn to tell the difference between real four-letter words and nonsense combinations of letters. And once they figure out the patterns, these monkeys can guess with impressive accuracy whether a new word is real or fake.
Because baboons can’t actually read, a new study supports the theory that the brains of our primate ancestors held the necessary hardware for understanding written words long before humans evolved. Only after we starting writing and reading about 5,400 years or so did we apply our object-recognition abilities to letter symbols.
By the end of the training period, which included about 50,000 trials for each animal, all of the baboons had learned to recognize at least 81 words at an accuracy rate of about 75 percent, the researchers report today in the journal Science. One animal learned more than 300 words.
image: Baboon eyes, Corbis