Can baboons read? Kind of.

Earlier this year, French behavioral scientist Jonathan Grainger and his team taught baboons to read. Well, not exactly. They taught the baboons to recognize words. The baboons played a game on a computer screen. When a fake word appears, they were supposed to press a blue plus sign. When a real word shows up, they were supposed to press a green circle. The baboons were rewarded with food whenever they got the correct answer. Over time, they learned to recognize common letter combinations, like TH, PR, RD, and others. After months of playing this game, the baboons accurately distinguished between a made-up word like “bnol” and a real word like “bowl” 75% of the time. That’s better than your average three-year old.

Of course, this does not mean that the baboons can read. They cannot look at the word book and connect it to the object book. That kind of abstract thinking separates humans from any other species. We see the word scissors – which has nothing whatsoever to do with the object – but our mind conjures a picture of scissors, a project that we’ve done with scissors, and many other memories. This also applies to predictive thinking. When we see the word tomorrow, we think about what we will make for dinner or whether it will rain. These abstract concepts define our species.

However, this evidence does prove that non-human primates can recognize letter patterns, which may be the evolutionary precursor to reading. Our brains are inclined to recognize letters, like patterns on a piece of ripe fruit.

This also makes us wonder: what is language? It is not merely the words on the page or the sounds that you hear. Language only becomes language when it’s understood by a brain.

What do think of this primate research? Are the baboons really reading?

The Seattle Times

Ocean mining

Sea Technology December 1, 2001 | Cruickshank71, Michael J This year’s Underwater Mining Institute (UMI 2001) was held in Hilo, on the big island Hawaii at the beginning of November. The 31st in a series of international conferences on marine mining sponsored by the International Marine Minerals Society (IMMS) and hosted by the University of Hawaii’s Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL), it was attended by about 40 marine mining aficionados from 13 countries. The program chair was Dr. Charles Morgan, a former president of the IMMS. go to site big island hawaii

The UMI draws on the expertise of researchers, industry professionals and environmental, resource and policy managers worldwide to provide the latest information relevant to the development of seabed minerals. Since the first UMI, the institute’s primary goal has been to encourage prudent and responsible development of marine mineral resources through technical presentations in venues that promote informal and free exchange. The theme and location of the conference varies each year and no proceedings are published, to allow free discussion of the subject matter that is frequently of a proprietary nature. Presentations are chosen or requested to ensure that the content and interactions of the UMI remain stimulating and fresh; and international participation is promoted and supported. This multi-disciplinary approach is attributed to the late Dr. J. Robert Moore, founder of the institute.

The IMMS is a professional society-founded in 1987-it now includes a worldwide membership of individuals from industry, government agencies and academic institutions representing more than 25 nations. The objectives of the society are: to promote and improve the understanding of marine mineral deposits within the province of the global ocean; to aid in the interchange of information among members through networking and formal symposia; to encourage the prudent development of marine mineral resources, including concern for the environment; to encourage and assist young professionals in their study of marine minerals; and to encourage research in all aspects of marine minerals development. The IMMS is a cosponsor of the UMI and holds its annual meetings at that time.

The Moore Medal, struck in honor of the founder, is awarded on an “as appropriate” basis to individuals who have contributed notably to the goals and initiatives of the society. This year the award was presented in absentia to Dr. Peter Halbach of the Dept. of Raw Materials and Environmental Geology at the Free University of Berlin.

During the past several years, commercial exploration for hydrothermal deposits has been undertaken in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea, while scientific interest has led to discoveries of promising seabed deposits worldwide. Significant new insights into the processes that form this major class of ore-forming minerals have been made. During the same period, studies of the biology and biochemistry of hydrothermal vent communities associated with the deposits have led to extensive commercial interest in the potential contributions that these ecosystems hold for biotechnology. This has led to questions relevant to the theme of the UMI and the IMMS: How can commercial interests develop these widely disparate resource types in an efficient and integrated manner? What are the technical and political conflicts between mining the sulfide minerals and exploiting the hydrothermal vent community genotypes? How can exploration for sulfide mineral deposits benefit extremophile bioprospecting, and vice versa? in our site big island hawaii

“Going to Extremes: Seabed Mining and Biotechnology,” was the main theme of the 2001 conference. The first session on marine sulfide deposits and extremophile biological communities was chaired by Dr. Alexander Malahoff, director of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, and included eight papers. These were entitled: Finding and Proving Seafloor Massive Sulphide Resources; Establishment of the Endeavour Hydrothermal Vents Marine Protected Area; Extremophile Exploration: Geothermal and Hydrothermal Systems; Hydrothermal Fields in Oceanic Fracture Zone Settings: an Example From the Blanco Fracture Zone, North-East Pacific Rise; Physiology, Geology and Sulfide Deposits of the Southern Explorer Ridge Seafloor Hydrothermal Site Using an Integrated GIS Database and 3D Modeling; Geochemistry of Fluids from Southern Kermadec Frontal Arc Hydrothermal Systems; Visible Gold in Massive Sulfides from Escanaba Trough, Southern Gorda Ridge; and Hydrothermal Sulfide Deposits in Lakes.

The second session was devoted to other topics of timely interest, chaired by Dr. James Hein, senior research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and included ten papers addressing, among other things, developments related to ferromanganese nodules and crusts, trends in deep seabed mining technology, sub-seabed minerals mapping with induced polarization (IP) and mine tailings disposal in the marine environment.

Cruickshank71, Michael J


  1. RedLeafRenegade -  October 20, 2015 - 7:05 am

    That Baboon clearly does not like that sign, especially the DO NOT FEED part X)

  2. ris -  June 16, 2014 - 9:53 am

    Well, I remember not being able to read but knowning how my name was like and even understand what it meant. If baboons don’t have their spoken language to make the connection, is there a way we could do so? Like when a dog associates a certain task with a piece of biscuit.

  3. someone -  August 29, 2012 - 7:29 pm

    seriously! my sister’s not average. she’s just turned 3 and she knows all her alphabets, numbers till 20, arabic numbers till 10, and she covered half of math. her english language is almost like a 4 yr old. btw i’m not kidding. i think my parents are the one to give me the credit for teaching her. *sighs* i’m so awesome

  4. Name not mentioned -  June 6, 2012 - 7:18 pm

    It’s going to be the end of the world by baboons. They’re getting smarter and smarter. :O I wonder if they’ll learn how to make homing missiles….. XD

  5. Pooh -  May 11, 2012 - 4:07 am

    @ April (on April 30, 2012 at 10:39 am)

    Oh you think I didn’t not research at all on Bible? Then tell me how this 4000 year old book proves that the Earth is round? Ya don’t believe me? Look at Job 26:10, Prov 8:27, Isaiah 40:22, and, Amos 9:6. How does this book tell about the water cycle? Look at Eccl 1:6-7, 11:3, Amos 9:6, and Job 26:8,.
    If you still don’t believe me visit: http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/ScientificBible.htm

    So be stop messing around and do some research instead of just saying what you think. Use LOGIC.

  6. mary torres $ca$hin out$ -  May 7, 2012 - 6:45 am


  7. April -  April 30, 2012 - 10:39 am

    I think that it is cool that scientists are experimenting in such a way.

    However, I want to point out to a few people here that:

    A: If you think the bible is literally true, then why don’t you go and do the research to prove it rather than touting a book that was translated so many times and has so many versions and is so cheap that it can be found in a seedy motel room.

    B: If you or your kid were reading at an age younger than kindergarten or first grade, great for you and your kid. I entered kindergarten able to read too. Maybe you or your kid got enough exposure to words and books and you were able to find ways to get your kid reading before the rest of the class, but that does mean your kid would be well above average, because not all parents are good enough at teaching their kids to do things like reading, in fact, in many areas, they aren’t for whatever reason and kids come to kindergarten unable to tie their shoes, read, use the potty correctly, wash their hands, brush their teeth, zip and button their pants, count to twenty, etc.

  8. Mitchell Rilatos -  April 26, 2012 - 12:18 pm

    First comment

  9. sherryyu -  April 25, 2012 - 12:45 pm

    i kinda think baboons can read

  10. nyama -  April 25, 2012 - 6:44 am

    amazing recognizing words and acronyms is well amazing again i’m speechless that is all

  11. Darwin Christ Almighty! -  April 24, 2012 - 6:35 am

    Use the “sight?”

    The word you are looking for is “site,” genius.

  12. Darwin Christ Almighty! -  April 24, 2012 - 6:33 am

    Reading all these comments, it’s very easy to see that many of you are related to baboons – especially you kooky evangelist monkey-heads, who don’t even undertsand the fundamentals of evolution. We are, as one of the more intelligent posters said, cousins to the existing lower primates, not directly descended from them. Jesus was a cousin to John the Baptist and Koko the talking gorilla.

  13. Wrath -  April 23, 2012 - 8:19 pm

    What differs humans from apes? the intelligence. Humans can think, read, explain and decipher. With this article, the baboons recognizes the letters as sort of shapes (we are not baboons so we do not know what exactly they’re thinking). Everything that is being said here are seen in our point of view. Any baboon can justify that they can read would be better, but there isn’t ‘coz they can’t understand the way humans discuss things.

  14. MrBossMan -  April 23, 2012 - 12:42 pm

    For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened, which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk.

  15. biga -  April 23, 2012 - 12:02 pm

    only people who believe something like genesis would be intimidated by the study of animals, and the everyday proof of evolution, the rest of us who live in reality are comfortable with the way things are

  16. biga -  April 23, 2012 - 11:35 am

    genesis is a fairy tale

  17. Preston Hancock -  April 23, 2012 - 11:10 am

    Yeah im human.

  18. Danielle -  April 23, 2012 - 10:16 am

    You know, the only thing that gets me is that someone said that the baboons had “initiative” (sp?) to pick out the patterns to symbolize “reading”, but most human children don’t just decided “Woah! I’m gonna learn to read because I’m bored and it seems masively convinent”! I think we had incentive too; to not get in trouble at school and with the parental figures at home!

  19. Eeeek! -  April 23, 2012 - 9:00 am

    I can’t believe you guys. “creachers”, “contrue” and “BAMBOONS”.
    Maybe you should actually use the sight, not just read the hotwords.

  20. BC -  April 23, 2012 - 8:06 am

    Genesis? People, you’re too old to read fairy tales.

    @Small Potatoes
    Technically, we’re in a “Planet of the Apes”-like scenario, since humans are classified as great apes, and we’re dominating the world right now =P

    And on topic: I think the baboons are merely recognizing which letter clusters are viable, so when seeing words like ‘bnol,’ they would recognize that the ‘bn’ digraph isn’t allowed, thus they reject it. I think we have more chances with chimpanzees or dolphins than baboons.

  21. BABOONREADING | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  April 23, 2012 - 7:30 am

    [...] ‘Baboon Reading’ is rather difficult we believe: — Much harder than reading tea leaves. — Unless the tea leaves attract the attention of tea leaf reading baboons — Symbiotically we know — other species communicate. — There are those who read Runes. — The reward is the patience we show and information we ate. — Reading and comprehension are birds of a different feather. – Interpreting data — a machine can do that. — The primates and other species need no machines to interpret the weather — If we knew any better we wouldn’t be so fat. –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]

  22. Ann lee -  April 23, 2012 - 7:07 am

    Isn’t it amusing that people are saying humans are “just primates”? C’mon! Do you see what you’re typing on? A computer, so complex that it takes years of study to understand how it works. I was made by a…baboon? NO!

  23. fdsfsd -  April 23, 2012 - 6:22 am

    its creature not creacher

  24. Lucas -  April 23, 2012 - 6:16 am

    Next up: can baboons text?

  25. KIKKI -  April 23, 2012 - 12:33 am

    sup my babbons….
    well if you can all read than i guess babbons can hahahahsahahhahahahahahahaha.
    am i right
    am i right

    LOLZ to all the babbons who have jumped onto cars and scared the crap out of thoes people
    (sorry if that was u)
    so make a comment if you like this
    thanks kikki

  26. Mr. Piggles -  April 22, 2012 - 11:23 pm

    Oops. Forgive the typo. Even people who create Gods make typos apparently. My bad.

  27. Mr. Piggles -  April 22, 2012 - 11:21 pm

    And to “?????” above,
    I wrote a book that states that I made God was my best creation and I made him special to give people like you something to believe in. So, because I wrote that book, it must be true. You’re welcome for the gift I have bestowed upon you.

  28. Mr. Piggles -  April 22, 2012 - 11:19 pm

    Judging from the majority of these comments, baboons are apparently more advanced than most human adults.

  29. Filipe -  April 22, 2012 - 9:18 pm

    *What do think of this primate research? Are the baboons really reading?

    First of all it is asked “what do YOU think”. Second of all i’m off, just wasted my boring time. Bye

  30. Jenny -  April 22, 2012 - 7:31 pm

    yeah, I agree with zachary david wolf. My thoughts exactly. It’s stupid for this article to be bias and call humans primates. God did make us in his image and evolution was never born. Languages came to be and you can find out how in the Bible story of The Tower of Babble in Genesis. :)

  31. ooh ooh aah aah -  April 22, 2012 - 5:46 pm



  32. sexy beast (~*A*)~ -  April 22, 2012 - 5:42 pm

    dang…what if apes/baboons/monkeys become smarter than humans then take over da world??? O.o
    *stares of into space…*
    PS.i have a weird imagination.
    PPS.mrcakebombs is right…RAINBOW DASH!!! b-(6.6)-d
    PPPS.yea, Adaiah we are soooo smart. spellin creachers like dat.

    b-(6.6)-d SCORE
    / /
    o o

  33. tyjkl -  April 22, 2012 - 5:40 pm

    This rocks

  34. ttttttttttttttttt -  April 22, 2012 - 5:09 pm

    many of our cousins although don’t understand English can communicate there thoughts and desires to us through sign language so I don’t see why they even conducted such a useless and inaccurate experiment.

  35. Sam the 8=====> -  April 22, 2012 - 4:08 pm

    People with this God crap, go back to school if you have not learned your science textbooks. God is a belief, a safehaven thought hell god could maybe even be real. But don’t go around preaching your faith just because someone sent out a science article. People have died just because of hardcore believers of the bible, like from the book: How To Kill A Mockingjay the character Miss Maudie tells a little girl that a man with a bible could be worse then him holding a bottle of whiskey. Now look in the middle east, we have suicide bombers blowing people up and massive explosions killing millions of people just for the sake of Allah or God. All i am trying to say is accept multiple ideas that say something to do with science.

  36. Michael -  April 22, 2012 - 4:01 pm

    I have often pondered the reason why humans differentiate from other species; now I know that it is because we associate words and ideas with emotions and memories and often think of the future. Curious.

  37. yayRayShell -  April 22, 2012 - 3:50 pm

    I don’t think the baboons are really reading. It’s just like training a dog. Does it mean that when a dog shakes your hand that it wants to welcome you, or does it just want a treat?

  38. I lost the game. -  April 22, 2012 - 3:12 pm

    “We are the smartest creachers!”
    Oh, the irony…

  39. I lost the game. -  April 22, 2012 - 3:08 pm

    Zachary david wolf: There is much more evidence that we descend from primates than that “god” created us. Do you even have any reasoning for saying that there is such thing as a god?

  40. Holly -  April 22, 2012 - 2:05 pm

    Wow Adaiah… There isn’t a baboon in the world who can spell words such as “creachers” and “MACH” better than you. Good job proving that we are God’s smartest creation!

  41. ??????? -  April 22, 2012 - 1:40 pm

    Alex is creepy. Unlike baboons who are adorable and NOT CREEPY!! :P

  42. Bizzi -  April 22, 2012 - 1:38 pm

    I think that baboons really could read but they just need to learn from patient scientists. Rewarding them is good so they can feel that they have done something positive. I love animals and I love teaching. I would be perfect for the job of teaching them!!!!!!!

  43. Mee -  April 22, 2012 - 11:54 am

    Reading this article &, then, the ridiculous comments just makes mee a bit sad about the state of our school system…! First of all, people, the article answers it’s own title question in the 3rd sentence. In the case of this study with these baboons, this is merely word recognition, NOT actual reading. Although there seems to be further potential for future research & studies… Chimps, Bonobos & Gorillas have been taught sign language, & they can use the assistance of boards with pictures and computer screens to communicate what they want, like a certain food or toy, or even how they feel, if they are sad or mad, etc…! It’s actually not THAT amazing what our distant relatives can do, considering the fact that our own DNA is 95%(or more?) identical to chimpanzees! (Which are NOT monkeys, by the way, people!! Monkeys are not apes, although they are primates, which we are, as well, along with so many other species! — Basic Scientific Facts.) It’s amusing that some of the most ardent comment posters are often some of the most uneducated! The amount of spelling & grammar mistakes in these posts is simply pitiful. Even in this published article, “Our brains are inclined recognize letters, like patterns on a piece of ripe fruit.” <— inclined TO? We are not as "evolved" as we think!! Those poor ignorant people who don't "believe" in science think we are so superior(Um, nice narcissistic ego, Holier Than Thou hypocrites!), but "God" created EVERYTHiNG in this wondrous Universe!! Every single particle on this planet & everything that exists beyond our Solar System that we have yet to even discover was ALL created by One, & you only disrespect this Source by denying the beauty & wonder of it all…! Once you realize how little we really know, even about our own brains AND our own planet, you honor the mystery of The Universe & Creation.

  44. OnceInABlueMoon -  April 22, 2012 - 11:40 am

    @Kris: Yes I heard of Koko!!!! She can sign over 100 words in ASL!!!

    There is also a poodle named Sam that can “read.” The dog trainers trained him to sit with the regular training process, then added a sign that said”SIT” into the training, and eventually showed him the sign with no voice commands and he sat! They did the same thing with other commands such as “roll over”, “lie down”, “play dead”, etc. But it isn’t actually reading. Sam just saw the charachters in the word arranged in that order and, with the help of voice commands, related it with sitting.

    And, the article said, “That’s better than your average three year old.” I am an average person and I read at 2. I don’t think baboons will ever surpass humans because, as “??????” pointed out, we are made special and different from everything else. Although I have to admit, somethimes younger siblings act like baboons….LOL!

  45. ariel ortiz -  April 22, 2012 - 10:40 am

    me tarza or maybe jane . I know baboon n monkey are not smarter then me . nevermind lion being king of jungle. I’M KING OF THIS JUNGLE ! everything else fall short next to me. jane send love to all you cucu head sientence spending money on stupid testing. god has this all under wraps , n you want to change it …leave it along.

  46. ariel ortiz -  April 22, 2012 - 10:34 am

    Me smarter then baboon . Me jane . no ! no ! Me tarzan . I think me tarzan. MAYBE ant’s are smarter , I don’t understand what me

  47. ??? -  April 22, 2012 - 10:25 am

    I think that wihtout incentive the baboons would not be able to learn to recognize words. Brains are wired by reward paths, and giving the baboons food when they get the correct answer helps them to make new reward paths in their brains based off of the situation.

  48. mraimis -  April 22, 2012 - 9:54 am

    Well, if God wanted baboons to read, he would have made it so.

  49. Anonymous -  April 22, 2012 - 9:31 am

    I think that we should keep this discussion out of religious matters ONLY BECAUSE other people may be offended by it. However, I do agree that if God wanted baboons to read, it would have been done naturally. Although people may like to believe that the baboons are reading, they are only doing an action that they know will be rewarded. That in itself is not reading. For example, if you train a dog to sit, it does not mean that the dog understands what you are saying. It only means that the dog recognizes the treat and sits in response. I also agree with Me’s post:
    “And what would the results be if fake words that appeared to be real and in which were contained the letter combinations the baboons were taught to recognize? For example: práth, meird, tchouth, chipli, althamérturailleïragousement
    *tch is a letter combination in French, for example, in the word “caoutchouc,” which is also a word in English.
    Bnol does not even look like a real word, my examples are not the best, but they could be words.” Did the scientists even consider this variable? That is what I am curious about. In what way, then, was the experiment purposeful? Thank you.

  50. sarah -  April 22, 2012 - 9:09 am

    that is just amazing!

  51. Moonbear -  April 22, 2012 - 7:34 am

    Even though I’m Catholic, I go against my Christian homies, language (in a literal sense) is a jumble of letters and numbers. Animals can easily recognize them and tell them apart. I’m pretty sure they can read, they just can’t speak it.

  52. Afterwalker -  April 22, 2012 - 7:03 am

    I can’t tell if my above commentator is ignorant, or just trolling. If the first is the case, I am sorry. If the second is the case, you’ve picked a very odd place to troll, dictionary.com? Really?

  53. Grant Short -  April 22, 2012 - 6:01 am

    There’s a well written article Language and its roots in The Insight Books, published by the Watchtower Bible and tract Society. Our Language tree has about 5 different roots instead of one like a would assume. Also its been noted that instead of starting simply and becoming more complex, its the exact opposite. The Languages used to be far more more complex and have broken down into more simple ones over time.

  54. Grant Short -  April 22, 2012 - 5:39 am

    I may appear obtuse as I didn’t read many of the previous comments, but if I’m not mistaken, don’t deaf children have the same trouble reading normal printed words without the ability to hear the words?

  55. menme -  April 22, 2012 - 12:43 am

    “Our brains are inclined recognize letters, like patterns…”

    Some proofreader wasn’t too inclined recognize the pattern here.

    That said, what the baboons are doing isn’t reading or language. Language means grammar, the ability to string known symbols together in infinite combinations according to rules to express something new. Don’t see any of that here. (I mean the experiment, not the comments)

  56. A -  April 21, 2012 - 7:36 pm

    Wow, that’s really impressive! I personally think this is a major discovery ;)

  57. Mallory -  April 21, 2012 - 4:22 pm

    Sooo many people are frustrating me by saying that baboons aren’t really learning, just well trained…You have to admit that it is spectacular that baboons can recognize letter patterns and even learn what button to push that corresponds with its answer.!!! And yes we are primates and language is an amazing thing we may never understand.

  58. 7%Solution -  April 21, 2012 - 4:16 pm

    “…if God wanted baboons to read, he would have made it so…” How can YOU presume to know the intent of your “god” (let alone that “god” is MALE)? Typical WASP thinking that ranks up there with a flat earth and that a god would dictate his word to a dumb human instead of just pre-installing “his” word in the mud man’s brain. Animals are quite capable of communicating in myriad ways and thriving without our intervention.
    Why do some humans have such delusions of grandeur?

  59. KATIE -  April 21, 2012 - 1:41 pm

    Click it.

  60. KATIE -  April 21, 2012 - 1:30 pm


  61. PatNap -  April 21, 2012 - 1:23 pm

    To Galaticpresidentrestofridiculousname – Monkeys and other animals are not robots. Disney can make mechanical hippos and sharks and even mechanical Abe Lincolns that go through the motions but they do not live, digest, fear, experience etc. etc. etc. like their living models. Nor do they experience and learn. You think a toy wind up puppy is the same as a real puppy. Not so. Animals are not humans but animals are not automata. They live, die, act and react upon environment, and they learn and think – apparently better than some people.

  62. Makaela -  April 21, 2012 - 1:04 pm

    It makes me happy to see some of these comments pointing to God:)

  63. Carbonated Chocolate Cake -  April 21, 2012 - 11:04 am

    I believe all animals are senitent beings. We cannot understand everything another creature is thinking. If you really think about it, many creatures are like humans. Creatures like otters and some birds use tools to open things. Other animals also have their own language, but we cannot understand it. They have feelings that can affect what they do. There is much more to add to this theory, but I’m not going to list all of the possiblities. Other animals aren’t “advanced” like the way we think we are. They don’t need computers, cell phones, toilets, light bulbs, and ect! And thank you Kt, I really liked your comment and I believe that you are 100% right!

  64. mary torres !so chula! -  April 21, 2012 - 8:45 am

    who saw the movie think like a man ?

  65. mary torres !so chula! -  April 21, 2012 - 8:39 am

    those things stink and they can kill you

  66. Anne -  April 21, 2012 - 6:05 am

    Ray, the point of the article was that while the baboons can recognize the patterns of words, they can’t connect the abstract concept of the word with the physical reality the word represents. So words like sunshine, food, sex, banana, or whatever baboons are into wouldn’t mean anything more to them than words like car, democracy, religion, or microscope. They don’t actually have language, they can just recognize patterns.

    Just like a dog can recognize the expressions on an human face, being able to recognize patterns is an ability many animals have, including octopi, birds, and fish. And most mammals can recognize patterns. They’ve tested dolphins, dogs, cats, rats, and of course, primates. The difference is in assigning meaning to these patterns. That is the amazing thing humans can do. Sure Koko and a few other genius animals have been able to think abstractly with sign language, they have limits to how far they can go in obtaining language or using language to express an inner process (thoughts, emotions, etc.) Don’t look for any gorilla Shakespeare to come around.

    What I find really amazing here is the texting some of these comments are written in. Talk about recognizing words that don’t look like words! Wow! We get an abstract concept like love from a sideways carrot and a number three. <3 That's a heart, right? A symbol of love, right? Something that has been written about forever, and still not defined.

    The amazing thing about humans and language is the ability to invent, to create. That is how we are different from animals. So hurrah for the baboons, but hurrah for us, too. (Baboons wouldn't even care enough to do an experiment on other animals to see if the other animal can think like a baboon.)

  67. Gama Shah -  April 21, 2012 - 4:16 am

    Whether a baboon learns or not what difference does it make. I would humbly suggest to Mr Jonathan Grainger and his team to spend their energy on finding efficient ways to devise methods to teach to poor counties children to make them to compete with the developed countries children. Hope all those at the helm of affairs shall consider my suggestion positively. With best wishes Gama Shah

  68. Hazel -  April 20, 2012 - 10:53 pm

    Can a monkey become a genuis?

  69. Hazel -  April 20, 2012 - 10:51 pm

    Do they mean monkeys are cleverer than us or they mean the same?

  70. kcg -  April 20, 2012 - 8:46 pm

    baboons freak me out

  71. KATIE -  April 20, 2012 - 8:00 pm

    Kk! Kiss hug kiss

  72. Walken D Park -  April 20, 2012 - 7:37 pm

    Cheap shot, bravo! But that would be your conclusion if you felt closer genetically to a baboon than an undeveloped human being. Wishful thinking?

  73. joshua -  April 20, 2012 - 7:22 pm

    I think that that’s very neat!

  74. Nshera -  April 20, 2012 - 6:40 pm

    Thank you Kwaku!!!!!!!!! YOU’RE GHANAIAN!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO AM I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I <3 U!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  75. Nshera -  April 20, 2012 - 6:38 pm

    That is really interesting. I wonder if you can do that with dogs, cats, etc!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Anyways, did anybody see chimpanzees?????????

  76. KATIE -  April 20, 2012 - 6:20 pm

    Wow Katherine! So long!
    I love my full name.
    And I’m proud to announce it to the world!
    I, Katherine Alissa Peterson, am cool.

  77. KATIE -  April 20, 2012 - 6:17 pm


  78. KATIE -  April 20, 2012 - 4:06 pm

    Humph…I thought I was the only person here. WEIRDD!!! I put it with 2 d’s to make it “weirder”.
    Hannah, if you are reading this, I bet you are like “hahaha so funny” (like it really isn’t)!
    So, anyways, where were we?
    Oh, and my iPhone hasn’t been working well so yeah. That’s why I’m all weirdd and everything so yah.
    Bye bye Buds,
    Love from your mama Katie Alissa Peterson.

  79. KATIE -  April 20, 2012 - 3:54 pm

    I’m still the only one here, right? Wow!

  80. huh??? -  April 20, 2012 - 3:05 pm

    Evolution is God’s work. We evolve. The world evolves. The world grows, it changes, it does not stagnate. Put the Bible down and stop trying so hard to push your beliefs in other’s faces. Stop covering up your shortcomings and addictive behaviour. He made us to be his crowning achievement, and as imperfect as we are, we have many distinguished traits that make us what we are. We communicate with voice, paper, signs, screens, et al. Animals, even as well-trained (fed) as these baboons, are several rungs lower on the evolutionary ladder. Do not expect them to vocally expound upon “Atlas Shrugged” for quite some time.

  81. Mackenzie -  April 20, 2012 - 2:19 pm

    great that u luv ur girlfriend alex….

  82. Mackenzie -  April 20, 2012 - 2:18 pm

    It’s like teaching elephants to draw/paint.

  83. JJ in Chula Vista, CA -  April 20, 2012 - 2:15 pm

    Zachary David Wolf, you’re completely wrong. Educate yourself before you think you can make an intelligent comment on a matters of reality.

  84. Michele -  April 20, 2012 - 2:11 pm

    If someone reads this article, YOU GOTTA COMMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-D

  85. Michele -  April 20, 2012 - 2:09 pm

    If ape are taught to sign language, then they can read

  86. Mythpunk -  April 20, 2012 - 1:34 pm

    Hey, I see several Christian fundamentalists were able to read this article, so why not baboons?

    Seriously, you guys are using Genesis – a 4000 year old, anonymously written book with no evidence to back up ANY of it’s recorded events – as a scientific text. It’s a collection of ancient Hebrew myths! Don’t believe me? Ask a Rabbi! His/her people actually wrote the book, so I think they’ll know a little bit more about it than the anti-semitic, power-hungry tyrants who established YOUR religion’s doctrine in 325 ACE.

    Maybe if you did a little research instead of mindlessly accepting what they told you in Sunday school, you’d realize that faith and ignorance AREN’T THE SAME THING!

  87. TETO -  April 20, 2012 - 12:28 pm

    here we go again………. proving the Bible by reading the Bible. It matters very little what we think sans proof. So let’s even the score by starting young to teach other primates like we teach our own species.
    Koko the “sign talking” Gorilla shows her intelligence very clearly by joking around and telling lies and inventing words “signs” to talk about something that she has no word for. She is helping us understand better the things that she knows.
    I have followed her progress since she was a baby and Penny Patterson who has devoted her life to Koko has proven all this. If you want to be amazed read some of the books about Koko and how “People Like” she is and thinks.
    I have some old mailings actually signed by Koko.
    Remember……. as we age our minds get smaller and our waistline gets larger.
    Thanx and keep an open mind.

  88. Renrut -  April 20, 2012 - 12:08 pm

    Would spectacles help the baboons? They don’t seem to make much difference to humans.
    Does god work? Maybe!!
    Does evolution work? Oh yes.

  89. God -  April 20, 2012 - 11:47 am

    Woo! Hoo! first comment!

    Trust me, none of you are made in my image.

  90. ????? -  April 20, 2012 - 10:28 am

    Well, if God wanted baboons to read, he would have made it so. As it says in Genesis, we are his best creation and he made us special and different from everything else.

  91. Alex -  April 20, 2012 - 10:26 am

    wow.!! it really wowed me for 5 second and makes me think for one-day…anyway i can have my say here…
    baboons are evolutionary linked with us so we are sharing some similar chromosomes and yes! genes ultimately… because humans are branched out from common ancestor as that of monkeys. therefore certainly they (baboons) have innate ability to recognize prints like that of humans but they are not living in rich-print environment like humans..so their innate ability (cognition) to understand and recognize words is dwindling by time as result of remaining nonfunctional.
    as the researchers reward them every-time they got the right answer…it is a reinforcement like our children encouraging them to do better next time…so goes the saying ” once is good, twice is better, and three times is the best ”. we are cousins to our relatives – monkeys.

    i love my girlfriend. Oh yeaaaaaaaaaaaah

  92. Alex -  April 20, 2012 - 10:22 am

    wow.!! it really wowed me for 5 second and makes me think for one-day…anyway i can have my say here…
    baboons are evolutionary linked with us so we are sharing some similar chromosomes and yes! genes ultimately… because humans are branched out from common ancestor as that of monkeys. therefore certainly they (baboons) have innate ability to recognize prints like that of humans but they are not living in rich-print environment like humans..so their innate ability (cognition) to understand and recognize words is dwindling by time as result of remaining nonfunctional.
    as the researchers reward them every-time they got the right answer…it is a reinforcement like our children encouraging them to do better next time…so goes the saying ” once is good, twice is better, and three times is the best ”. we are cousins to our relatives – monkeys.

  93. LR -  April 20, 2012 - 10:17 am

    Holy Cripes!

    I’m not sure, but I think some of those baboons in the study are leaving comments here too.

  94. Small Potatoes -  April 20, 2012 - 9:47 am

    “Planet of the Apes” here we come!

  95. FAF -  April 20, 2012 - 9:36 am

    Did Walken D Park deliberately imply that his (her?) daughter is an unexceptional baboon? LOL!

    Walken D Park on April 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    ” That’s better than your average three-year-old.”
    When my daughter was three, she was reading childrens’ books out loud to her class. And she was not exceptional. Any child can read early with the right encouragement and the genius of Maria Montessori. Word recoginition is not so exceptional. A two year old can recognize “stop” , “exit”, “push” and “pull” if encouraged. So baboons are not exceptional or smart. Just exceptionally trained.

  96. matt -  April 20, 2012 - 9:04 am

    hay katie i am matt wht ur name i am in middle school

  97. matt -  April 20, 2012 - 9:02 am

    i hope u like my commet :) hahahahhahahahahhaha

  98. matt -  April 20, 2012 - 9:01 am

    i love baboons they r my favorite animal

  99. Renrut -  April 20, 2012 - 8:56 am

    When I look at the comments made by evolutions crowning glory, the human being, I wonder how it is that baboons are unable to contrue much more than they do and wonder why the human being thinks , thinks? that they are superior. Why is sense called common when it is so rare?
    The idea that humans are not primates because they are made in gods image provides me with sufficient mirth to amuse me all day. Is it that man is in gods image or is it that woman is in gods image, it cannot be both can it? We also know that ‘when got made man she was only joking’

  100. Kt -  April 20, 2012 - 8:51 am

    @Zachary David Wolf
    This article never said anything about God not existing. Primates is merely a way of classifing animals and people into similar groups, and it is undeniable that baboons and people look the same and have some other similar aspects.
    God made everything, sure, but nothing in the bible ever said that evolution was not possible. I’m not saying we evolved from monkeys, but you can’t honestly say humans haven’t changed over time, not while you type away on a computer while using a nifty device called the Internet that wasn’t even here 63 years ago.
    So I guess I just don’t understand what it is you’re upset about. Animals can become smarter, and that has nothing to do with the bible or religion at all.

  101. miky -  April 20, 2012 - 8:30 am


    go baboons!!!!

  102. wolsamnoraa -  April 20, 2012 - 8:30 am

    Can Baboons read? Of course. I just finished this article, didn’t I? ooo eee ooo ahhh!!!

  103. Adaiah -  April 20, 2012 - 8:23 am

    <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 :-D <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

  104. Adaiah -  April 20, 2012 - 8:20 am

    I totally agree with zachary david wolf we are Gods creations! ! ! ! ! !

    We are the smartest creachers! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    WE ARE SMART PEOPLE! ! ! ! ! ! !



  105. Professor Gary -  April 20, 2012 - 7:57 am

    Very interesting. Somthing I would love to more deeply check into.

  106. ed -  April 20, 2012 - 7:53 am

    Jonathan Grainger didn’t have to go to such great lengths. All he needed to do was observe the US Congress, Supreme Court and yes at times the Presidency.

  107. Kwaku -  April 20, 2012 - 7:27 am

    Give praise to the LORD all ye nations and peoples of this world. Baboons reading or not, it tells me the LORD is all powerful and wise in creating all of these. Nothing like devilish Evolution crap! Said my peace of mind! Peace to the Lord!

  108. joan -  April 20, 2012 - 7:20 am

    thats conditioning.. thay actually cant read :)

  109. BOB -  April 20, 2012 - 7:08 am


  110. BOB -  April 20, 2012 - 7:07 am


  111. Bonnie -  April 20, 2012 - 6:31 am

    No matter how superior we claim we are, we humans are also primates. The primate research cited in this article is very similar to teaching very young children their ABCs. By repetitive teaching and rewarding appropriate behavior, both levels of primates will learn.

    But this is where the similarity ends. The baboons were not reading, because they were not consciously connecting the symbols with abstract ideas, and ultimately, communication. Even with extensive and repetitive training, baboons would only be able to recognize – not manipulate – “language.”

    A toddler would not understand this connection right away, but (ego-boost alert) because the human brain is so highly developed, he will eventually connect symbols to words, words to ideas, and ideas to verbal and written expression.

  112. Ann lee -  April 20, 2012 - 6:11 am

    Interesting. I don’t think they’re READING, they’re simply recognizing each shape. Letters in themselves are just lines. The baboons learned that if this shape is next to that shape, they press the blue button and get a treat. They don’t know that these little lines are letters and represent things. All they know is that if they get it right, they get food. They don’t know why C and H go together, and I don’t think they really care. So technically the big climax in this article (evolutionary precursor) is false. Just like how they know a bug from a leaf, baboons can recognize this squiggle from that squiggle. Very clever, but it’s not reading.

  113. Rhett -  April 20, 2012 - 6:03 am

    Over time, and especially if my meals depended on it, I could learn to recognize distinct Chinese characters.

    I am not reading Chinese. Pattern-recognition is quite a few steps from concept association.

  114. Nidnat Mystedin -  April 20, 2012 - 5:08 am

    wow.!! it really wowed me for 5 second and makes me think for one-day…anyway i can have my say here…
    baboons are evolutionary linked with us so we are sharing some similar chromosomes and yes! genes ultimately… because humans are branched out from common ancestor as that of monkeys. therefore certainly they (baboons) have innate ability to recognize prints like that of humans but they are not living in rich-print environment like humans..so their innate ability (cognition) to understand and recognize words is dwindling by time as result of remaining nonfunctional.
    as the researchers reward them every-time they got the right answer…it is a reinforcement like our children encouraging them to do better next time…so goes the saying ” once is good, twice is better, and three times is the best ”. we are cousins to our relatives – monkeys.

  115. richard legare -  April 20, 2012 - 4:44 am

    (Would I trade my passion for better grammer?)

  116. richard legare -  April 20, 2012 - 4:40 am

    Teaching an animal about how we communicate is taking one step closer to understanding how they communicate. If we were to become universally aware of sentiency in other beings some powerful resistance can be expected from people with thinking as shallow as they feel/wish is the case with other life forms. Knowledge doesn’t stand up well to greed.

  117. Nobody in particular... -  April 20, 2012 - 3:17 am

    Cool! Sorta… I hope they teach them to read properly, that would be way awesomer.

  118. McNerico Cadeliña -  April 20, 2012 - 2:13 am

    Baboons can’t really read but they can recognize words as a result of trial and error or determiner and the determined process. As the baboons tries to press the blue plus and recieve reward, they recognize that what they did was right and vice versa with the green circle. Since we only use one word of “bowl” that made them recognize easily what is right or wrong. How about if we will all the words that a man can think of? do you think baboons can still recognize those words? not even their own name “baboons”.

  119. Spanish Translator -  April 20, 2012 - 1:00 am

    This is an interesting research. Much like children, words are first read via memorization. As they grow and communicate with words though, they learn to associate those words with actual/abstract objects.

    If sign language can work with chimps, maybe it’s not impossible for them to learn to read words.

  120. arlen -  April 20, 2012 - 12:09 am

    I think that if the baboons were able to recognize the letter in the experiment, maybe, at some point, they will have the capability to remember them. And if the researchers were also able to teach the baboons further by showing the word with the corresponding picture and repeat the process again, the baboons will eventually learn to relate the objects to the words. Just like how children are taught to remember the names of objects in the environment. :)

  121. IQ -  April 19, 2012 - 10:06 pm

    The baboons are not reading, they just remember the shape or pattern of word, so that they will be rewarded by food if they get it right. :D

  122. Dionysus -  April 19, 2012 - 9:51 pm

    I do not believe that a language only becomes a language when it is understood by a brain. Because an infant can understand and recognize the shape of a ball, but he cannot communicate to other infants what that is, and when shown another ball that doesn’t look the same, he will try new things with it. So I think a language becomes a language when it is understandable across many brains, recognized by more than one being as the same thing. I don’t know, just a thought.

  123. Me -  April 19, 2012 - 9:41 pm

    To the first question in my post, I meant to write “were used” before the question mark.
    I feel it in me to pose another question: were the words that the baboons saw in English or in French? Such a question may seem obvious, and perhaps it is, but I still feel as though the article would be enhanced if that information were included therein.

  124. Charley -  April 19, 2012 - 9:40 pm

    i don’t think so

  125. Jack -  April 19, 2012 - 9:37 pm

    I believe that they could think of them as pictures with patterns. For example, the baboons haven’t been rewarded for hitting green for words that have a ‘b’ and an ‘n’ next to each other so they hit the blue instead. Great article as always.

  126. BACHHU DAS -  April 19, 2012 - 9:00 pm

    This type of attempt made us sure that what exact creatures can do.

  127. KATIE -  April 19, 2012 - 8:26 pm

    Goin to bed.

  128. KATIE -  April 19, 2012 - 8:25 pm


    Sayin that light-heartedly

  129. KATIE -  April 19, 2012 - 8:23 pm

    Hi Hannah!!!!!

  130. Hannah G. Lee -  April 19, 2012 - 8:22 pm

    lookin 4 me??
    u told me 2 go on dictionary.com huh??
    just 2 confirm
    u r Katie Peterson right?
    ya cool story sis
    gtg 2 bed

  131. KATIE -  April 19, 2012 - 7:38 pm



    Am I the only one here??

  132. KATIE -  April 19, 2012 - 7:34 pm

    monkeys are intelligent.

  133. KATIE -  April 19, 2012 - 7:33 pm

    That’s why monkeys are intelligent.

  134. KATIE -  April 19, 2012 - 7:32 pm

    First comment!

  135. Walken D Park -  April 19, 2012 - 7:28 pm

    ” That’s better than your average three-year-old.”
    When my daughter was three, she was reading childrens’ books out loud to her class. And she was not exceptional. Any child can read early with the right encouragement and the genius of Maria Montessori. Word recoginition is not so exceptional. A two year old can recognize “stop” , “exit”, “push” and “pull” if encouraged. So baboons are not exceptional or smart. Just exceptionally trained.

    I’d rather teach humans to read than animals…..

  136. GalacticPresidentSuperstarMcAwesomeville -  April 19, 2012 - 7:17 pm

    To think the baboons are really reading is like thinking robots and AGVs actually know where they are going and what they are doing. Or that computers “know” what website to go to when I type the URL.

    Big difference between intelligence and mechanical repetition of a task or process. A monkey can be trained to do practically anything.

    Another useless and pointless study that does nothing to advance the knowledge of the human race.

  137. Book Worm -  April 19, 2012 - 6:24 pm

    Maybe. That’s pretty cool. :)

  138. rachaes -  April 19, 2012 - 6:19 pm

    I know right!!!

  139. Anyssa -  April 19, 2012 - 6:19 pm

    its totally RAD chicks!!

  140. Anyssa -  April 19, 2012 - 6:18 pm

    i think it is extremley fasinating that they did this really extraordinary im always on the lookout for something like this!

  141. J-Wu33 -  April 19, 2012 - 6:14 pm

    I can read. I learned to read in kindergarten.

  142. Ray -  April 19, 2012 - 5:22 pm


    They should use words they know to be of importance to baboons: words like, dawn, sunrise, day, evening, night, moon…

  143. Me -  April 19, 2012 - 5:03 pm

    And what would the results be if fake words that appeared to be real and in which were contained the letter combinations the baboons were taught to recognize? For example: práth, meird, tchouth, chipli, althamérturailleïragousement
    *tch is a letter combination in French, for example, in the word “caoutchouc,” which is also a word in English.

    Bnol does not even look like a real word, my examples are not the best, but they could be words.

  144. Lemming -  April 19, 2012 - 5:03 pm

    Is that the first comment?

  145. Lemming -  April 19, 2012 - 5:03 pm


  146. Kris -  April 19, 2012 - 4:54 pm

    Uh, there are a number of different ape species that absolutely comprehend language. The list is rather long. But I’ll start with the very special, gentle Koko. A gorilla who can speak in sign language.

    Betty White here saying meeting her friend Koko was one of the most magical moments of her life. Open your minds and hearts to see the wonder. http://koko.org/bettyandkoko/

  147. zachary david wolf -  April 19, 2012 - 4:48 pm

    We are not primates! We are made in God’s Image and likeness as detailed in Genesis. Also the origins of the languages are explained in Genesis 11.

  148. mrcakebombs -  April 19, 2012 - 4:38 pm

    inb4 someone links “RD” to Rainbow Dash

    Honestly though, Language is not just a bunch of letters and numbers; it’s what has helped form our society from day one. Without language, we would probably still be in caves, surviving off of make-shift spears. Language is a form of communication, either from letters, like in this comment, or orally.

  149. E -  April 19, 2012 - 4:13 pm

    The scientists mentioned are rewarding the baboons with food; I think that if they didn’t, the baboons wouldn’t have incentive and therefore wouldn’t learn at all.


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