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Communications Science

Can Communications Be Learned From Chimps? 312

Posted by simoniker
from the bubbles dept.
Pine UK writes "The Zoological Society of London are looking for volunteers who are willing to 'talk chimp' in everyday life. The ZSL will be studying the volunteers to see how talking chimp affects situations like workplace conflicts. According to BBC News, the volunteers are expected to show their emotions in a chimp like fashion. This can be done by baring their teeth and by using submissive body language such as lowering their heads and crouching. The ZSL will publish their findings later this year."
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Can Communications Be Learned From Chimps?

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  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:48PM (#8797424) Homepage Journal

    Animal behaviour experts at ZSL are asking volunteers to 'talk chimp' in everyday life and see how primate patter can resolve workplace conflicts

    I can just imagine the natural progression of such an experiment:

    2004: "Oooo oooo ooohhh AAHH AAHH ooo oo AAHHH AHHHH ooo ooooo..."

    2005: "We own Linux."
  • Well, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kemapa (733992) * on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:48PM (#8797425) Journal
    I really hope this is not a government sponsored study. I mean, even if researches conclude that chimp-like movements, facial expressions, and noises help solve workplace and home conflicts, how many people are really going to start walking around going "abuga luuga luuga" and whatnot?
    • Re:Well, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pilgrim23 (716938) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @06:09PM (#8797695)
      From some literature I read some years ago, I remember that the hallmark of an alpha male in Chimp society was the ability to scream loud, gesticulate aggressively, then while standing in a position between its tribe and the perceived threat or object of displeasure, squat, defecate and then skillfully project the product thereof in the general direction of dislike. This is consistent primate behavior. Would not the US Congress or perhaps the UN be a better venue for this sort of study?
  • Really, I'm curious.
    • Re:Is Learnt a word? (Score:3, Informative)

      by simoniker (40) *
      In a word, yes [reference.com], but headline has been changed to stop inevitable 50-post grammar dissection (or.. has it?)
    • Re:Is Learnt a word? (Score:5, Informative)

      by xmark (177899) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:52PM (#8797466)
      It's the British version of the American past-tense "learned."

      So now you've learnt something new for today...
    • Righto, good chap. In jolly olde England some words are spelt differently.
      • No, in the USA some words are spelt differently. It's our language. (and yes, I know that "differently" doesn't refer to which was original, but do I care?)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:49PM (#8797434)
    That humans have finally been trained to communicate after years of work!
  • chimps (Score:5, Funny)

    by blackmonday (607916) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:49PM (#8797438) Homepage
    If by "commnuication" you mean throwing your own poo to show disgust, then I would say "yes!".

    • Re:chimps (Score:2, Funny)

      by Snad (719864)

      If by "commnuication" you mean throwing your own poo to show disgust, then I would say "yes!".

      Oh it's much worse than that. Bored chimps in the zoo masturbate to relieve the, er, boredom.

      Imagine all the bored /. nerds at work unable to read (it's not chimp communication), and instead taking up the chimp's ways....

      Actually, that's not something to imagine. (shudder).

  • Yes (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When the chimp warns about WMD, there is a strong chance of war
  • by gid13 (620803) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:51PM (#8797458)
    Of COURSE we can learn communications from chimps. Didn't you see Planet of the Apes? Wait a minute... Statue of Liberty... That was OUR planet! And you blew it up! DAMN YOU!!! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!!!!
  • by DragonMagic (170846) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:52PM (#8797462) Homepage
    oo OO OOOO oo!
  • Sorry boss... (Score:2, Informative)

    by mikeophile (647318)
    Dung throwing is chimp for "I respect your leadership"
  • by kevlar (13509) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:52PM (#8797469)
    This gives a whole new meaning to "Going Ape-Shit" in the work place.

    Legitimizing Ape-Shit behavior between team managers definately does not provide a positive answer to the question: "Is this good for the Company?".
  • Well.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by i7981 (734398)
    If acting like a monkey can take away a person's first ammendment right's in the name of terrorism, It must have something right.
  • Um... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Auckerman (223266) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:52PM (#8797472)
    "see how talking chimp affects situations like workplace conflicts"

    I'm no expert in Zoology, but I'm assuming you'll have the shit beat out of you by the end of the day. It would be about as bad as saying "someone has the case of the Mondays" on a construciton site.
  • by handy_vandal (606174) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:52PM (#8797475) Homepage Journal
    The Zoological Society of London are looking for volunteers who are willing to 'talk chimp' in everyday life.

    This is too rich: parody that writes itself.

    Are we sure that April 7 isn't All Fool's Day ...?

    -kgj
  • by Alexis Brooke (662281) <alexisbrooke AT adelphia POINT net> on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:52PM (#8797477) Homepage
    Animal behaviour experts at ZSL are asking volunteers to 'talk chimp' in everyday life...

    You can't be on the Internet for more than five minutes without seeing this.

    OMG! Lik can u beleev teh chimps r talkin now? ROFLOLOKOL!!1!1!

    The chimps is here, and they is us.
  • Aren't we chimps? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CGP314 (672613) <CGP@ColinGregory ... t ['Pal' in gap]> on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:53PM (#8797486) Homepage
    News, the volunteers are expected to show their emotions in a chimp like fashion. This can be done by baring their teeth and by using submissive body language such as lowering their heads and crouching

    And this is different from how human body language is used how?


    -Colin [colingregorypalmer.net]
    • Method A:
      "What are you doing, dumbass?! AUGH! You wrecked it!" *Smacks coworker in the head* *Scratches ass* *Whistles at attractive female coworker*

      Method B:
      "Ooh? AAH! AAHHA AHHHHHEEEHAAAAAAA!!!" *Grabs wrench and beats co-worker with it repeatedly* *Stands over unconcious body and screeches loudly while pounding chest* *Wipes ass with hand and sniffs it* *Chases attractive female coworker into closet while grunting loudly*


      Man. Suddenly I wish we were doing this study at MY workplace too...
    • And this is different from how human body language is used how?

      In human body language, baring your teeth implies a friendly attitude, while pressing your lips together signals agression. For most mammals, it's the exact opposite.

      Disclaimer: This was first noticed by Douglas Adams.

      • In predatorial animal language baring the teeth is the same as brandshing a gun. I have a weapon, so you'd best not act agressive towards me.

        In humans, smileing or laughing at a dangerous situation, or an accident is the same, it is baring the teeth as a fear response.

        In prey animals (cattle) they don't bare the teeth, they face the danger, or try to stare it down. Perhaps while attemtping to gain some distance or allow herd members to gain some distance before fleeing.

    • I'm not a chimp, but ! [bushorchimp.com]
  • by cTbone (632308) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:53PM (#8797489)
    Why don't they just put a camera in SCO's offices?
  • by Tiro (19535) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:53PM (#8797490) Journal
    They should probably check out /. while they're doing their research.

    The trolls here have been communicating on the level of lower primates for years.

  • by cubicledrone (681598) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:54PM (#8797510)
    No. You see, we are human beings. We have developed written and spoken language, art, music, drama and culture which allows us to communicate. Rather well, in fact.

    I really don't think there is a need for "throw shit at each other" as a way to communicate.
  • Chimps (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mateito (746185) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:55PM (#8797522) Homepage
    Of course... give an infinite number of chimps an infinite amount of time and they will produce all the knowledge in the known universe.

    Give a finite number of chimps a finite amount of time and they will produce slashdot comments.

    Give a single chimp a broken typewriter and a banana and he will post dupes as CowboyNeal.
  • Silly idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:56PM (#8797529)
    Humans already have a range of expected emotional responses that are ingrained into us by culture.

    Honestly, if a co-worker of mine bared his teeth and cringed or tried to wave his arms about, draw himself up tall, and shriek, I'd be convinced that he was stark, raving insane. While the researchers are trying to make a point about showing off your emotions better, I think they miss the need in human society to NOT show your emotions at times.

    Heck, even confrontational chimps will hide their nervousness until after a stand-off.
  • only ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by SirSlud (67381) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:56PM (#8797531) Homepage
    ... if I can retain the copyright on the Shakespeare plays I produce whilst participating.
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by AstrumPreliator (708436) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:56PM (#8797536)
    I wonder how they would respond to this, "Have you gone bananas?"
  • by Trolling4Dollars (627073) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:56PM (#8797541) Journal
    Our president and most of the republicans in political offices across this land are proof of that. So the REAL question is... is learning communication from chimps a good thing? ;P
  • ...how this would be any different from my current communications with my co-workers and family members...?
  • by cruff (171569) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @05:57PM (#8797556) Homepage
    The morphed orangutan librarian of Unseen University on Discworld is pretty expressive with variations of "ook". Many people in the novels understand him.
  • This is already being done in the marketplace today, even at the highest levels [ntk.net]
  • volunteers who are willing to 'talk chimp' in everyday life.

    I do, but they are called "co-workers" where I do.
  • by Geek_3.3 (768699) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @06:00PM (#8797588)
    poo flinging behavior to show disgust (literal or figurative)... check

    parasite grooming (a.k.a. the search for salty snacks)... check

    flying off the handle for no readily apparent reason and causing others around you to follow same panicky behavior... check

    Just like looking into the mirror! :-)
  • After downloading the survey and laughing a bit more, I noticed they only mention how to send it back to them by snail mail - no online file upload or even email address to collect them. Which implies to me that this is either a joke or something they expect at most a few hundred people to reply to [otherwise they'd have found a simpler and more effective response system].
  • Close... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Fwongo (570947)
    Ook! [dangermouse.net] is a programming language for orangutans. It workers can be building skills in conversation!
  • by rjelks (635588) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @06:03PM (#8797637) Homepage
    I think some of my coworkers have already agreed to participate.
  • is middle managment?
  • better way to do it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by frovingslosh (582462) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @06:05PM (#8797650)
    As proposed in the article, this seems extremely lame. However, I've long thought there would be a better way to do it. Humans age 0 to about 4 show a remarkable ability to pick up any languauge. I suggest we should take some yound children (it's not like there isn't a large surplus of them) and raise them with chimps and even dolphins, as well as give them enough human contact that they also pick up our language. Then in a short time we would have people (small people, but still people) who do understand communication of these other species, rather than have people who just act like apes (we have enough of those already).
    • by dunkstr (513276) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @06:19PM (#8797804)
      ...and this is why scientific communities have ethics boards.
    • So you are suggesting physchologists take people who can't possibly give legal consent and subject them to a long term test, the outcome of which could have unforeseen long term negative effects on their ability to merely function in society?

      As long as they are poor people its ok I guess.
    • Somehow I see the dolphin experiment going horribly wrong after about three minutes.
    • Gee, and if it works with chimps and dolphins we can move to other species like rats, sharks and ants...
    • One of the common explanations for why chimps (regular or Bonobo) don't have language is that they can't do consonants, only vowels. That is, if all you can do is squeak and squeal, you can't convey as much information and you won't develop language and/or intelligence. (you choose which direction the causality should run)

      But recently researchers started listening to those high pitched "simple squeaks" that Bonobos have. They discovered two things:

      • Bonobos do quite a bit of modulation of those "squeaks"- m
    • by nessus42 (230320)
      Just FYI, there is a web site devote to feral children [feralchildren.com].

      |>oug
    • In general, if a child realises that it doesn't need a particular language to communicate, it doesn't learn it. The child will almost certainly bond better with people (it's difficult to bond with a creature when you can't live in the same environment...). You'd have to refuse to speak to it for this to work at all, and I doubt it'd get past an ethics committee.
  • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @06:07PM (#8797664) Journal
    Accordint to the structuralist [colorado.edu] theory of language and society, you cannot copy the former without copying the latter. This means that if this experiment is supposed to have any value, all the participants should also create a martriarchal polyamorous sexual commune. Which reminds me: do they still need volunteers?
    • Actually, the species you want to imitate is the bonobo [primates.com] (they used to be confused with chimpanzees, but turned out to be 1.5 million years or so further up the evolutionary tree).

      Unlike the chimpanzees, whose behaviour consists of aggression, threats, and chest-thumping I-am-da-alpha-male etc attitudes, bonobos resolve conflicts by cuddling up to each other and having snuggly therapeutic sex. Sometimes the whole troupe gets into it.

      Nothing like an orgy to defuse aggression.

      So, if it were bonobo beha

  • by dghcasp (459766) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @06:07PM (#8797676)
    In a chimp-like fashion?

    You mean like picking bugs out of each other's hair to show support?

    Or having sex with all the females in the office in front of the men to show your power?

    Or flinging sh*t at people who say stupid things in meetings?

    The funny thing is, it'd still be better than the way things work at my office.

  • Watch the monkey! [mindoverpixels.com] (1.7 MB QuickTime movie)
  • My company has been experimenting with chimps in the HR department for years. Whenever there is a conflict at work, the parties can go complain and have their dispute resolved through the bonding experience of ducking dollops of hurled dung together.
  • There was quite an extensive study on a high profile figure in US Politics, and the results can be viewed here [bushorchimp.com]
  • I'd have to say yes.
  • Frats (Score:2, Funny)

    by meplaysocr (715112)
    They should just study the behaviour of frat boys. Drunken ones to be specific. ;)
  • by CGP314 (672613)
    Cue the poo-flinging jokes in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... splat!


    -Colin [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • (/me) throws own feces at boss. "Here's your TPS reports, you damned, filthy human!"

    (/me) urinates into own mouth. Just because.

  • "So for four hours a day for one year, Mr. Smith, we need you to fling feces at things that annoy you. Oh, and if any of the monkeys try to get at your food, bite them or pee on them."
  • Every time I sit in on management team meeting it's quite an education.
  • So if I can beat up my boss, I can have his job, office, wife and secretary? Cool!

    Just think if we did this for the selection of President of the United States. We could have Arnold the bodybuilder fighting John Kerry the ex-SEAL.

  • by brandido (612020) on Wednesday April 07, 2004 @06:43PM (#8798056) Homepage Journal
    Didn't we prove someone could learn communication from chimps and then promptly elect them president? The surprising thing is that it seems like Bush got some of the looks in addition to the mannerisms.

    {ducks tomatoes}
  • Let's see, we have two leading theories of how we got here, both of which assume we are better developed in most areas of mental activity than animals such as chimps.

    So, either way, it seems rather silly.

    If we really think this is a good idea, I vote we cut to the chase, and learn to communicate like, say, ticks. You don't mind if I bite you and squeeze ny head in under your epidermis, do you? That's how I communicate, "Hey! I'm surviving! And you have Lyme's disease now!"
  • The military has formal customs and courtesies that must be followed, and many of them take ritual form. Saluting, formal reporting, seating and other positional preferences, all are physical measures of the military structure. Within the formal structure are undercurrents of respect and deference. It is interesting to see an older enlisted troop call a new officer "sir", yet receive nearly complete deference from the officer because it is clear who has greater experience and knowledge.

    Not to imply that
  • >This can be done by baring their teeth and by using
    > submissive body language such as lowering their
    > heads and crouching.

    I've done this exact same thing over a fresh box of sweet rolls on Doughnut Day. I wonder if chimps would do the same...hmmm
  • Well, we already have a framework for such communication in the form of the Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite [ietf.org].

    Perhaps we need to revise it to allow poo flinging, though.
  • People already DO "talk chimp" - and the other primate languages.

    It's just that in some cases we're not that blatant about it and in others our dialect has diverged.

    For instance: "Pout Face" (squeeze the lips together and extend them toward the reciever) is a nearly universal primate "I'm friendly toward you" getsture. In humans it has apparently evolved into the kiss (at least in western societies). So you're likely to be misunderstood if you address this gesture to another human other than your lover
  • Seeing the article on /., I had the uneasy feeling that this was a late April Fools prank. Unfortunately, reading the article didn't dispell that feeling.

    Would someone really do this?

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