Saturday, 4 February 2006

Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't.

by CARL ZIMMER, free registration required to read.

This post gives a very graphic description about the difference between a human 3-year old and chimpanzees.

Previous result
This is how the researcher shows a young chimpanzees how to retrieve food.

The box was painted black and had a door on one side and a bolt running across the top. The food was hidden in a tube behind the door. When they showed the chimpanzees how to retrieve the food, the researchers added some unnecessary steps. Before they opened the door, they pulled back the bolt and tapped the top of the box with a stick. Only after they had pushed the bolt back in place did they finally open the door and fish out the food.

OK, the result:
Two thirds of the chimpanzees follow the steps faithfully. The interesting thing is when the box is transparent. None followed suit. They all went straight for the door. So the chimpanzees are clever.

Now, compare that to 16 children when given a transparent box (the object to retrieve is different, not food!). 80 percent of the children imitated the steps. Are we dumb compared to the chimpanzees?

For an explanation, read the rest of the article. For my view of the story, scroll down.

We, human, can learn without knowing the objective of the action behind it. So we just need to memorise all the steps involve first and figure that out later. This is hardwired in us. Hence, the importance of first person experience and the power of that first person experience compared with the other form of experience. The fine balance between these various experiences are critical for us to become the most successful spices on Earth.

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