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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Bow and the Mice

These days, Bow is a laconic teenager. If he can answer in one word, why use two? If the situation does not require language, he won't chat just for the sake of chatting. He is sure of himself and his place in the universe, and the last thing he wants is for someone to try to teach him something new.


But you have only to look into his eyes to  see how intelligent he is. He loves to be photographed and after I snap the picture, he wants to take a look, too.


He has a sardonic smile, and a fine grained sense of humor. And when I ask him why he won't just spell out the word using his own hand without mine, he answers: סתם. Which is a special Hebrew word that won't translate into English, but it means something like "for no special reason" or "just because." Now that's a teenager for you.


Use my own hand? Why?

Mind you, he is the one directing my hand when he uses it as a pointer. If he wants to go outside, and I want him to stay inside, his hand makes my hand spell that he wants to go outside. And if I were to try to direct his hand, he would get very angry with me. So between the two of us, we know who is calling the shots.

Leo wants to play

Bow goes outside, surveys his domain from a lofty vantage point, and if he feels like it, he will deign to interact with the outdoor dwellers.


Then he comes in, and he is so very calm and civilized, but he won't always do what I want.


He does what he wants. And at this point, I would not mind it at all if someone else came in and tried to help me convince Bow to show what he can do. Clearly,  he is past the critical age for language acquisition, so it's not a matter of teaching him language. He has that already, and if he did not, it would be too late to start now. Even Genie, the feral child,  could not be taught, and she was a human.

Bow has language and literacy, because he was cross-fostered from infancy. But what I need for Bow right now is someone who will teach him how to take a multiple choice test. Or even a free-hand essay test, for that matter! Testing for a grade is something that humans have to learn, too. It is not inborn.

I follow the blog of a home-schooling mother, and if you are interested, you can read about some of her struggles with her boys:

http://thethinkingmother.blogspot.com/2015/04/transitioning-from-homeschool-to.html


Even home-schooled children sometimes need to take an extra year to learn how to acclimate themselves to the expectations of a new school system. There is the world of learning. And then there is that other world: the world of proving what you learned.

But how do I know what Bow knows? How do I know I am not deluded? Well, here is the story of "Bow and the Mice." I published it long ago on  Hubpages, but it has since been de-indexed.

Bow and the Mice

Field or Wood Mouse

The field mouse is much smaller than a lab mouse.  Image Credit: The Wikipedia
The field mouse is much smaller than a lab mouse. Image Credit: The Wikipedia
In the fall of 2007, as the weather started to get cold, squatters moved into my attic and into the warm crawlspace under my house. I didn't notice them, because they were invisible, didn't make a sound and were very discreet. At least, that's how it seemed to me, after I found out they were there. But from Bow's perspective, none of this was true. According to Bow, they were loud and annoying, and he couldn't stand their wild orgies.
The squatters in my attic were field mice.

The New Quarters and the Scary Drains

In the summer of 2007, our living arrangements changed drastically. The sun room was converted into a series of pens, with long corridors leading from the indoors to the outdoors, and a single corridor feeding into the "potty room", equipped with a shiny metal prison style toilet that Bow was to use.
Each of the two indoor pens had a metal drain in the middle, and the floor had a slight incline to help water drain easily. Gone were our beautiful wooden floors and gone was Bow's freedom to roam from room to room throughout the house.
New interns learned to dread the potty corridor, because in the bathroom there was toilet paper! It was in the potty corridor that Bow did his best to haze new recruits. Give Bow a long corridor and a roll of toilet paper, plus a new intern to terrorize, and we at once experienced complete pandemonium.
On the other hand, if I escorted him there, he held onto my hand or rode on my back and was a complete angel, doing his duty and indicating by an elegant twist of the wrist that he was done, and it was time for me to get some toilet paper to wipe him with.
I had originally thought that it would be fine if we didn't always use the metal potty. If Bow wanted to pee directly into the drains, I had no objection. It would also save wear and tear on the new interns and by-pass the inherent drama of the potty corridor. But no! There was no way Bow would go anywhere near those scary drains.
At first, Bow was completely inarticulate about his unreasonable fears. He would just gingerly swat at the drain with one hand, keeping the rest of his body at a great distance, lest the drain, or something in the drain, retaliate against him.
After Bow became literate, I asked him why he was afraid of the drains. His answer: "There are animals there."
"Animals?" I repeated. "What kind of animals?"
"Bad animals."
"How do you know they are bad?"
"They want to eat me."
"Bow, come on! Why do they want to eat you?"
"Because they're bad."
Needless to say, I didn't believe him. After all, he couldn't produce a single shred of evidence to back up his story.

Bow

Humoring Others and Being Humored in Return

As summer changed to fall, Bow's complaints about the animals under the floor became more frequent and frantic. There were times when he would race around in circles and scream and when I asked him what the problem was, he insisted that it was "animals." There were animals under the floor. There were animals over the ceiling. I didn't see, hear or experience anything that would corroborate Bow's allegations, and what's more, he was a notorious liar.
Very soon after he began spelling words, Bow told me there was a fire in the kitchen. It was a full sentence, in Hebrew, very grammatical, and like any person interested in the truth, I went to investigate. There was no fire.
This happened a few more times before Bow admitted that he only said that because he was hoping I would take him to the kitchen.
On another occasion, Bow told me he saw a mouse in the kitchen. I went to look. I didn't see a mouse, but Bow kept insisting there was one. "So what do you want to do about it?" I asked him, a little weary of all these lies.
"I want to go catch the mouse."
Aha. So it was another excuse to go to the kitchen.
One day Bow said: "Stop feeding me in the pens."
"Why? Where do you want me to feed you?"
"In the kitchen."
It seemed like a very clear pattern. Bow wanted to go to the kitchen. He would say anything if he thought it would get him there.
So, when Bow kept mentioning those animals, I didn't believe him. But since there was no reasoning with him about it, I started to humor him. Instead of arguing that there weren't any animals, I would say things like: "Never mind those animals, what would you like to have for lunch?"
During the same period, as I was having trouble producing any solid proof that it was really Bow who was pointing at the letters, I noticed that a number of people with whom I had regular phone conversations were now avoiding the topic of Bow. If I told them Bow had said something, they just didn't react. They didn't get excited. They would change the subject. They never tried to argue me out of it, but they were amazingly unresponsive to what I had to say.
At first, I didn't know why those conversations were so odd. Nobody had said anything bad to me, but after I hung up I began to feel very depressed. The normal give and take of the conversation just wasn't there. Why weren't they more excited to hear what Bow had had to say. Then it dawned on me: I was being humored.
They didn't believe Bow was spelling at all. I had no proof, and, of course, I knew I had no proof, but I thought what was happening was interesting even without the proof.
After all, knowing that something is true and being able to prove it to someone else are two separate issues. Not being able to prove something is not the same as proving that it's not true.
How could they just assume that I was wrong? But I was doing the same thing to Bow. He kept insisting there were animals, and just because I couldn't hear them, I assumed they weren't there.

It's hard to keep an open mind

It's hard for anyone to keep a completely open mind. We think we know so much about the world already, that any fact that threatens to overturn some of that knowledge is often rejected out of hand. For any proposition X about a real world state, most of us, (myself included), have one of four states of belief:
  1.    We believe X is true.
  2.    We believe X is false.
  3.    We believe X is not a meaningful proposition, so its truth or falsity is logically unascertainable.
  4.    We feel X is so insignificant, that any implications to be drawn from it are also unimportant. In such an event, we are willing to concede that we don't know, because we don't care.
People very rarely feel that they don't know whether something is true when it is both meaningful and significant. Why? Because every significant, meaningful proposition about the real world has implications for the truth or falsity of many other significant propositions. There are no facts in a vacuum. We have states of belief about those other propositions, and we would have to change them, if we changed our mind about X.
Whether we can prove Proposition X to be true (or false) is a separate question from whether we believe it to be true or false.
You may have witnessed an event. You may be the sole witness. You believe the evidence of your senses. Somebody else may or may not believe you. You may realize that besides your own testimony, you can produce no other proof. In such a situation, you believe you know the truth or falsity of the proposition, but you have no proof.
In the case of the mice, Bow's sensory acuity was better than mine. It took some time before evidence that I could take cognizance of could be found. But Bow was right about the mice, even when he could not prove it to my satisfaction. What he claimed was no less true before I noticed the evidence that supported his claim.
It is hard to keep an open mind, because living in the real word requires us to formulate a working hypothesis about many different things. We can't wait until we have absolute, irrefutable proof of the truth or falsity of a proposition until we formulate a belief about it. The facts of reality are a matter of life and death. Being indecisive can cost us.

Corroborating Evidence

One day, Bow became especially frantic and was screaming like crazy. When I asked him what was the matter, he spelled out "Animals Pee". It was in Hebrew, as usual, but this time it wasn't a well-formed sentence, It was just the word "animals" followed by the word for "pee."
"Do you need to pee?" I asked him.
"No. Animals pee." He kept screaming while he spelled.
I ignored the animal part of it, but I thought maybe he needed to pee, even though he denied it. I had learned to my peril that it was not a good idea to ignore the word "pee." So I dragged Bow down the corridor to the metal toilet and made him sit there, but he wouldn't pee.
As we were making our way back to the pen, I noticed some drops of moisture on the cement floor of the adjoining pen, the one we hadn't occupied. Bringing Bow back to his pen, I peered through the glass at the drops on the other side. Nobody had been there. Bow couldn't have made those drops. Where had they come from?
I turned to Bow: "Is that what you meant?"
He answered: "Yes. Pee of animals."
"Where did it come from?" I asked Bow.
"Animals on the ceiling," he spelled..
I went over to other side. There were definitely drops on the cement. They did indeed seem to have fallen from above, rather than seeping from below. Bow's version of the truth was suddenly looking a lot more believable.  
"There's a man whose job it is to catch mice," I told Bow. "Do you want me to call him?"  
"Yes. Right away!"
"Bow, in order to call the man right away, I would have to leave the pen. Are you giving me permission to leave?"
"Yes."
This was a very big deal. Bow hates to be left alone.

Why Didn't they Just Let them Go?

I did not go into the details of what an exterminator really does, because I didn't think Bow needed to know that. He had enough other things to worry about. What I didn't realize at the time was that Bow would have to know. There was no way to keep it from him.
Calling the exterminator and getting him to actually come are two different things. We live out in the country. Repair people and service providers come at their convenience, not ours. I called right away, but it was a few days later when the exterminator finally arrived.
Meanwhile, we were expecting a visit from another primatologist, and Bow continued to worry about the "animals" in our midst. When our guest did not arrive as planned, Bow was very concerned. I told him that the delay was due to car trouble; Bow wanted to know if there were animals in the car who had caused it to stop running. During that period, Bow was inclined to attribute any mechanical failure to animal infestation.
The other primatologist told me that Bow's drain phobia was quite common among chimpanzees and bonobos. It was also pointed out to me that chimpanzee sensory acuity was much better than human, and that Bow could hear things well outside my hearing range, and was probably aware of things that were happening within a radius of miles from our house.
This explained why all this time Bow had insisted on telling me what was going on in the house across the road. He had definite opinions about the characters of all the residents. He tended to identify with the points of view of the children and the dogs. I had taken all of this with a grain of salt, because after all, he did lie.
The exterminator arrived when we still had our guest with us, and Bow was happy about the whole thing. It wasn't until the next day that he began to complain that the mice were screaming.
"Why are they screaming?" he asked me frantically.
"I can't hear them," I said.
"Why can't you hear them! They're dying! It's too bad that they're dying," he told me. "Why did they have to kill them? Why couldn't they just let them go?"
The next few days were very hard. Bow became more and more agitated. If I thought he had been frantic before, he was much worse now. He was distraught. He ran around in circles and screamed and tried to tear his hair out. It was impossible to get him to concentrate on anything. According to Bow, every day, just as one batch on mice had finished dying, new mice would come in, eat the bait, and scream in agony. "This is unbearable," Bow spelled out in Hebrew.
At first, I was shocked that he knew, but I hoped it would all end soon, and we could get back to normal. However, there seemed to be new waves of mice every day or so, and more screaming, according to Bow, and it became a never ending saga of horror. Finally, I asked Bow if he wanted me to call the exterminator back and ask him to put a stop to the dying. He said he did.
I never fully explained it to the exterminator why, but I asked him to remove all remaining poison packets from the attic and the crawlspace.

Mice, Cows and Elephants -- A hearing test!

Things went back to normal, more or less, after the poison was removed. Bow was not frantic, most of the time, but every once in a while he complained about all the noise that the mice were making.
"I can't hear it," I told him.
"Why can't you hear?" he asked.
"My ears aren't so good."
"Why are your ears not so good?"
I had to think how to answer that. "I'm not young anymore, so I don't hear as well as I did when I was a child."
"But Sword also doesn't hear the mice."
"Yes, well, I guess human ears aren't as good as chimp ears."
Bow needed some time to process this information. On a different occasion, he said: "I hear a cow. Does Mommy hear the cow?"
I answered: "Yes. I hear the cow. It goes moo." I tried to imitate the cow's lowing. 
"Yes," he agreed.
We had established that we could both hear a cow out in the neighbor's field, but only Bow could hear the mice in our attic and crawlspace. This was some information about our respective hearing ranges, but it was not enough. Now, if we only had an elephant in the area, we could establish the lower bound!
Not wanting to limit myself to this method of empirical testing, I looked up some statistics on chimpanzee and human hearing.

Comparative Hearing of chimpanzees and humans

Figure Credit: Heffner, Rickey. 2004. Primate hearing from a mammalian perspective. THE ANATOMICAL RECORD PART A:281A:1111-1122.
Figure Credit: Heffner, Rickey. 2004. Primate hearing from a mammalian perspective. THE ANATOMICAL RECORD PART A:281A:1111-1122.

A mismatch in speed and a mismatch in frequency

Until the spring of 2007, I had not been aware that chimpanzees process information at a much higher rate than humans. Until the fall of 2007, I had no inkling of the difference in our hearing ranges.
It's so easy to think of a chimpanzee as being a hairier, slower, less advanced version of ourselves. Even those of us who have the most "progressive" attitude can easily fall into this trap. Many animal rights activisits see themselves as the guardians of chimpanzees, who they imagine to be somewhat underprivileged, lesser abled versions of ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Chimpanzees and humans are different, but the differences are not what you would expect. Chimpanzees are stronger, healthier, and faster than we are. Flash information on the screen for a split second and they will process it before you've had a chance to see that there was anything there.
The higher speed of processing is not completely unrelated to their ability to hear at higher frequencies than we can. Human hearing ranges between twenty to 17,800 HZ, with our best hearing occurring somewhere in the vicinity of 4,000 Hz. We don't know what the lower bound of chimpanzee hearing is. Not enough research has been done. However, it has been established that chimpanzees can hear as high as 28,500 Hz, and that their best hearing is around 8,000 Hz. Best hearing means that one is able to pick out a sound in a particular frequency even if the sound is very faint.
On the face of it, the differences between the human upper bound and the chimpanzee upper bound for hearing may not seem like much. Other primates hear even higher pitched noises than chimpanzees do. (A lemur can hear sounds at 58,000 Hz.) But if you take into account how much softer a high pitched noise can be and still be audible to a chimpanzee, then you see that there is a significant difference.
Maybe I could have heard some of the sounds the mice were making, if they were right there in front of me. Bow could hear them through the insulation in the attic.And it really bothered him!

What the mice were doing and why it bothered Bow

After the poison was taken away, Bow relaxed and was able to concentrate better. However, he let me know that there still were mice and that they were still making a lot of noise. Every once in a while he would become very frustrated, and he complained: "I want them to stop making noise."
One day, I asked him why it bothered him so much. He wrote out: "Because I need to also."
"What? You need what?"
"A girl friend."
This confused me. In Hebrew, the world for girl friend is just the word "friend" in the feminine. It's ambiguous. Bow already had lots of female friends. Most of the interns were women.
"What kind of girl friend?"
"An ape girl friend."
That's when I realized that the mice were bothering Bow because they were having loud, raucous sex.

Realizing How Little We Know

The more time I spend with Bow, the more I realize I don't know about the world around me, and about humans and chimpanzees in particular. If Bow were just a slower version of a human, proving what he can do would be easy. It's because he is faster and better able than I am to observe the world we live in that proof is so much harder to come by.
Some people ask, if chimpanzees are so smart that they can understand human language, why don't chimps in the wild have language, too? My answer is: what makes you think that they don't?
If human observers cannot process it, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's not there. I don't hear the mice, but that doesn't mean they're not here.

This fall, when the weather started to turn cold, Bow turned to me and spelled: "Let's not do anything about the mice this time."
I agreed. 
(c) 2009 Aya Katz


Comments 51 comments




Jerilee Wei profile image
Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States
I absolutely loved this hub and I didn't even see the link until just now, thanks! These are the kinds of interesting facts that I think many are wanting to learn about the world beyond humans, and our fellow creatures on this planet. We all have so much to learn, if only we open our minds to the endless possibilities.


hot dorkage profile image
hot dorkage 6 years ago from Oregon, USA
I would humour you too if you had no proof. How come you can't prove to your friends that Bow can communicate? Surely he must be creating some kind of signal in the physical world that you can process and interpret and document. Poor horny Bow. He is complex enough that he might not like a blind date with some random female chimp. He might find her shallow or of a different philosophical persuasion.
S


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Thanks, Jerilee!


ajcor profile image
ajcor 6 years ago from NSW. Australia
This is a great hub - I knew that chimps were smart but this smart???? incredible - and as for his hearing and processing skills .....Why was he called Bow? more hubs please...cheers
Status: A


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Hot Dorkage, but you're not humoring me! You're asking questions, which is completely different. I would rather deal with a healthy skeptic any day rather than somebody who has already made up his mind.
There is evidence. If you watch the 2007 DVD, you can see Bow pointing by himself, but by and large, most of the time, he hold ours hands in order to make us notice what letters he selects. You have to read the entire series on Bow and watch the videos, in order to form a preliminary opinion. Then, hopefully, a healthy skeptic will propose useful tests.
The short answer is, if he is holding your hand, you know that he pointed and you didn't manipulate him. If you are an onlooker, you can't tell. So if I watch Eden with Bow, just like you, I have to either believe Eden that she didn't choose the letters, or disbelieve her. He has written with more than one person, and he has written alone, but he doesn't answer out of context questions, and so we have no "objective" fool proof, non-anecdotal evidence.
Bow won't bother to point, if he thinks we won't see.
Anyway, read the whole series, including the comments, and watch the DVDs, to get an idea of the problem.


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Ajcor, thanks for your comment. My daughter is named Sword and so I named Bow after an even more ancient weapon. The word "QST" in Hebrew can mean either bow as in "bow and arrow" or bow as in "rainbow".


Amanda Severn profile image
Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UKLevel 1 Commenter
Aya, I'm so fascinated by your hubs about Bow, and I have shown them to my children. My 10 year old is so impressed that he would really like a chimp brother too. In fact he asked me to e-mail you to find out how we could get one! Poor old Bow, living with the frustration of hearing things that no-one else can hear, and being (at least initially) disbelieved. Having Bow must be the experience of a life-time. A lot of hard work, but huge rewards.
S


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Amanda, thanks for dropping by. Tell your son I think everybody should have a chimp brother! However, chances are that where you live, it is against the law. It is in many places. We are lucky to live in a state that permits this living arrangement.


surefire profile image
surefire 6 years ago
Liked it.
Status: Approved.


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Surefire, thanks!


Amanda Severn profile image
Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UKLevel 1 Commenter
Hi Aya,
I'm not sure about the legal side of things here in the UK, but in any case, having seen the way things went with the hamster, I'm not planning on organising a chimp brother any time soon! It's a lovely idea though, and I imagine Sword must love her unusual sibling!


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Amanda, adopting a chimp is a lifetime commitment, so you are wise not to jump into it lightly. Sword and Bow love each other, but like most siblings, they also experience rivalry and competition. The things they say to one another are not always as nice as I would like. However, it's all part of the normal ups and downs of the sibling relationship.



Ida-May profile image
Ida-May 6 years ago from Yorkshire
I love reading about you Sword and Bow in your Hubs. I have to say after spending weeks in a house that was infested with mice I have every sympathy. At least I had the option of lying to my kids and telling them the mice were just being caught and released. On the sibling front my daughter thinks a chimp brother might have better manners than her human brother


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Ida-May, thanks! I don't know about the comparison in terms of manners that your daughter made. I guess I'd have to see her brother in action. Anyway, it takes two to quarrel. Neither one of my kids is completely blameless. On the other hand, they can each be very considerate of the other, when the spirit moves them. ;->
Status: Visible.
 ip: 72.161.223.150


mistyhorizon2003 profile image
mistyhorizon2003 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)Level 2 Commenter
Wonderful information about Bow as always. It never fails to amaze me how intelligent chimps (and all the great apes) are !!
S


Christoph Reilly profile image
Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis
This is the first time I've come across one of your hubs about Bow. I must say, b/efore you said Bow was a chimp, I was confused. Thought maybe the new digs were for children (not a bad idea).
But Seriously, totally fascinating. I knew a show business chimp once named Skippy. He was on Letterman a lot many years ago, including the "chimp cam" if anyone remembers. I knew his owner/trainer. Skippy was funny and smart, but he lived in a New York apartment, not enough room for a chimp. He eventually got mean and went to live at a chimpanzee retirement park in Florida.
That's quite an experience raising one, judging by your writing. I have no trouble believing Bow can communicate. So did he get a girlfriend? That would suck having to listen to that non-stop orgy going on upstairs if you needed some companionship yourself.
Thanks for a most interesting hub! Can't wait to read the rest!
Status: Approved.



Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Misty, thanks! We're only just beginning to know the depth of intelligence that all the great apes are capable of.
Christopher Reilly, thanks for your comment. How old is Skippy now? Is his trainer still in touch with him? A New York apartment is probably not the best place to raise a chimpanzee. Sometimes we have to be flexible about changing the living arrangement, rather than institutionalizing the ape. Maintaining long term relationships is very important.
Bow still doesn't have a girl friend, but we're working on it. I am hoping to invite a female chimp guest to his next birthday party.


vida 6 years ago
Ms. Katz,
I read in another post that you suggested Bow's reactions were too quick for the observer to notice so he began using your hand most often as a guide. Have you ever considered the Clever Hans Effect? That maybe there are unconscious clues that you give to lead him to the correct responses? Maybe to help skeptics you could blindfold yourself while he guides your hand and videotape his answers, or have someone else behind you watching what he does? and mixing up the responses so you don't know where they are.
Status: Approved.


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Vida, thanks for your comment. Yes, of course, I've heard of the Clever Hans effect. No one working in ape language studies can have failed to hear about it. There was a big conference about this right about the time that Herbert Terrace denounced Nim Chimpsky.
The idea of using blindfolds (or opaque glasses) has been brought up many times. It won't work, because Bow will not spell for someone who can't see. That was the whole reason he started using our hands -- because we couldn't see what he wrote. (The problem wasn't visual obstruction, but the effect was the same.)
Daniel J. Povinelli has written a book suggesting that young chimpanzees don't know about seeing -- that they will gesture at someone who has his eyes covered -- but my experience with Bow has been quite the opposite. He knows all about seeing -- or rather, perceiving.
We've tried other things, though. We have someone ask him a question that Bow knows the answer to (what' in the box? for example), and the questioner doesn't know the answer. We've had mixed results on that. Nothing conclusive, because Bow does not cooperate with tests.
It sounds bad, but it doesn't prove anything, one way or the other.

Shalini Kagal profile image
Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India
Aya - your hubs about Bow are so gripping and so touching as well. How on earth can't people see that he can communicate - and so well too!
A little tip that might work where the mice are concerned - a drop of peppermint essential oil on a cottonball. A few of these scattered in the attic and maybe in holes in the garden tend to keep field mice away. That way, you don't have to exterminate them and upset Bow.
Status: Approved.


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Shalini Kagal, thanks for dropping by! We've missed your presence on Hubpages.
I'll try the peppermint oil. I've never heard of this method of deterring mice, before. Thanks!



Melissa G profile image
Melissa G 6 years ago from Tempe, AZ
Aya, as others have noted, this is fascinating! If people don't believe that Bow can communicate it's because they don't want to. I had a research methods instructor who was fond of reminding us that you can't ever really prove anything, the best you can do is establish an empirical regularity, and your stories about Bow remind me of that. Fortunately, he has your voice, and your daughter's, and your interns', to share his story with others, and hopefully you'll continue to find new ways to break down barriers of disbelief.
Thanks for another great read! I'm amazed at how much I find myself caring for Bow and sympathizing with him in your stories. It was also interesting to see how much he came to empathize with the mice; no longer seeing them as enemies to be feared when he realized they were capable of experiencing such pain. It seems chimps can be more "humanitarian" than humans in that regard.
Status: Approved.
 i


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
MelissaG, thanks for the support and encouragement! Yes, your instructor was right. We can never prove that an empirical claim is true with absolute rigor, we can only establish facts that tend to support a claim.
I'm not sure tha Bow has more empathy than we do, it's just that he could not help but feel for the mice, when he had to hear their death screams. If we could all hear what he can, maybe we would act differently, too.



kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.
Status: Approved.


Christoph Reilly profile image
Christoph Reilly 6 years ago from St. Louis
Hi Aya: Sorry I didn't get back sooner. Regarding Skippy the chimp--I haven't seen the trainer since I left N.Y., quite some time ago, so I don't know if he sees Skippy or not. I'd be surprised if he didn't...they were pretty darn close!
Keep up the good fight!
Status: Approved.


kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.
Status: Approved.


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Christoph Reilly, thanks for dropping by again and for your encouragement.
Kjhaveri. thanks for your comment.
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kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.
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Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Kjhaveri, thanks for the appreciative comment!



kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.
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Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
kjhaveri, thanks for your persistent appreciation!


countrywomen profile image
countrywomen 6 years ago from Washington, USA
Aya- I have one question for you: How much of Bow's intelligence is natural and how much of it is due to the training that you have imparted? I know chimps are intelligent but surely your training must have a great deal of influence in Bow's superior communication and intelligence. Another excellent hub by a great primatologist.
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Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Countrywomen, thanks for stopping by again. It's a good question that you pose, but I honestly don't know the full answer. Bow is very intelligent. How much of that intelligence is due to nature and how much to nurture is difficult to determine.
I would like to point out, though, that "training" is probably the wrong word for Bow's upbringing and education. He is very resistant to anything that smacks of "training". He won't do anything for a reward. When he finally did start to communicate spontaneously using the lexigrams and then the letters, it was because he chose to. It was his timetable, not ours. 
I was expecting Bow to start "talking" (by using lexigrams) at the age of three. However, it was not until he was over five that he had the breakthrough. Reading the literature about chimpanzees in the wild, I noticed an article about how young chimps learn to crack nuts. The girls stay close to their mother and learn by imitating, so they are already learning how by thirty-six months of age. However, the boys are much more independent and hyperactive, and they don't settle down to learn how until about two years later. This is so consistent with what I experienced with Bow!
Every child has a different developmental timetable. I believe Bow was following his own. My hunch is that Bow is not more or less intelligent than the average male chimp his age. The only difference is that I provided a language rich environment. But we can't know for sure without much more statistical data on other chimps placed in similar situations.
  • khaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.


kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.


kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.
Status: Approved.


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Thanks, Kjhaveri.

kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.
S


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Kjhaveri, thanks again for your continued interest.


kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
hey i m yr fan. please give me yr best idea and share yr all kinds of things.
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Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Kjhaveri, thanks for your comment. I appreciate your interest, but I don't know how to answer your request. Could you be more specific?



kshah 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.
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 i


kjhaveri 6 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.
Status: Approved.


Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 6 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Kshah and Kjhaveri, thanks. It's amazing how similar your comments are.



kjhaveri 5 years ago from Ahmedabad
Hey its nice hubs.


Allie 5 years ago
Hi Dr. Katz, this is your former intern Allie! I was just getting up to speed on Bow and it made me miss him all the more. I am just pondering your dilemna with the speed in which Bow points and his preference for using the researchers hand to point with. I remember this scenario well and the challenges it presents, but I would love to see you find a way to capture his responses without the researchers hand. It's been a while since I've worked with him, but I was wondering if you might be able to find a way to convey the term "slower" or "slow down" to him, perhaps through play, so that the researcher could refuse her hand and insist on Bow slowing down to communicate if he wished to continue with the conversation. You might even be able to build upon your prior, above mentioned conversation with him about the capabilities of human hearing versus chimp hearing and relate it to visual processing.
I am thrilled to see that Bow and the project are doing so well. Please give he and Sword my love.
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Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Hi, Allie. Nice to hear from you again!
Bow can slow down, but when he does, he points at single letters and doesn't spell out words. I think that it's very hard to slow down and still talk, because the rate at which we talk (or write) is the rate at which we process information. Here's an experiment you might try yourself: try to talk very slowly, making each sound separate. You'll see that it makes it hard for you to remember what you were trying to say.
We are hoping that using a touchscreen computer, Bow can point by himself at his own rate of speed, and we can hear what he said because the computer will read it out for us. This project is currently in the works.
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SweetiePie profile image
SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter
I am learning a lot about chimpanzees from your hubs about Bow. Interesting how Bow can hear the mice, and how he knows what they are up too.
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Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
Thanks, Sweetie Pie. There's a lot that goes on around us that we just don't notice because our senses are so dulled. But having Bow around sometimes opens my eyes to what I am missing.



SweetiePie profile image
SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter
Also Aya, I wonder why people were so disbelieving that Bow can understand written and spoken language, or communicate himself. My dog Lady understood lots of English, I am not joking. I told Lady one time when I wanted to watch a show I would walk her as soon as it was over, and right when the ending music to the show came on she got right up and nudged me with her nose. Lady had heard enough English and watched enough TV to understand lots of things I said.
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Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
SweetiePie, I have very similar experiences with dogs to what you described here about your dog Lady, so I totally understand what you're saying. But have you tried telling that anecdote to a scientist or a skeptic? They can always claim that language had nothing to do with it and that Lady was reading some kind of postural cues or was responding to the music at the end of the program in some kind of instinctive Pavlovian way.
People are constantly told by the academic community that other animals have no language and that this is why humans are special. Even Sword the other day was surprised by the degree to which our dog Teyman understood something she said.
It was close to Sword's bedtime, and Teyman was on her bed, lying there as if ready to stay the night, and Sword was going off to brush her teeth and change into pajamas. Sword said to me: "Tell Teyman that when I get back I expect her not to be on the bed, anymore, because I need to go to bed."
No sooner had Sword said this than Teyman got off the bed and wagged her tail and pointed with her nose toward the door.
(Sword hadn't even left the room, she was still standing there.)
"Teyman is ready to go to the laundry room now," I told Sword.
"She's doing what you wanted."
"Does Teyman understand Hebrew?" Sword asked, astonished.
They program everyone at school to believe animals don't understand, and even children who live in homes with a talking chimpanzee can forget...
Anyway, I think that anyone who pays attention can see that language is accessible to all sorts of beings, and a chimpanzee understanding and using a human language is not all that unexpected. But the academic conditioning is in the opposite direction.



SweetiePie profile image
SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter
Well it is too bad that some scientists are not more open to your research, especially since I always thought that they were supposed to keep an open mind. I do not have a science background, but I am a little disappointed to hear about this. Chimpanzees seem very perceptive, and I am just picking up on that from the little bit of research you are sharing with us here.
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Aya Katz profile image
Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author
SweetiePie, in fact, I realize now that it was naive of me to think that all I had to do was make it possible for Bow to learn to use language and to read and write. What Bow can do is not really the issue. The issue, for the scientific community, is what I can demonstrate, using certain kinds of rote methods of testing, that Bow can do.
Many of my colleagues in animal language studies are very aware of what will or will not be accepted, and so they skew their experiments to what is "provable", even if it is a small fraction of what they know that their non-human research subject can do. It's not even the case that nobody knows that chimpanzees can do this. There are people who know, but they can't publish what they know or they will get in trouble with the academic community.


6 comments:

  1. I like how you incorporated the old hub about Bow into this update. I wonder have you tried an iPad like device with Bow. How does he react to these? I know in literacy programs many adults learning to read benefit from the iPad, and something about the touch screen makes it more interactive. I have thought about getting an iPad myself for convenience, so I was just wondering would he respond well to one. Would it convenience Bow to spell words on his own?

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    1. Thanks, Julia. I have actually thought about maybe getting Bow an ipad, after seeing someone's child using one. There are apps that are essentially multiple choice tests.
      Bow does have a touchscreen for a slightly earlier era, but he won't use it, and I am not sure if he will be any more cooperative with an ipad. The problem is getting him to want to!

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  2. I enjoyed reading the story of the mice again, Aya! It sounds to me like you are experiencing the same trials with Bow that I went through with my teenage son. Although, it does sound like Bow is a bit more challenging than a human son.
    I am surprised that he puts up so much resistance to helping your prove his skills though. I recall the story about Bow overhearing the lady's discussion with you about what could happen to chimps that prove they have language skills...apparently, chimps don't forget things either, eh?
    I know you will find a solution...wishing you the best of luck with it!

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    1. Thanks, Kathy. Bow does not forget things, ever! We just somehow need to get past that. And yes, I think in some ways, all apes, even the human ones, get a little harder to handle once they arrive at the teenage years, so I would not be surprised if what you experienced with your son at that age turned out to be very similar to what Bow is putting me through now! :)

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  3. I think they want their independence, but struggle with how to have that without completely severing all ties. It's a balancing act for a stubborn, unwieldy teenager who still loves his mom but wants 'other' things now too.
    Seemed like it was constant battle stations at my house for about 4 years, until he got out on his own. He crashed 3 cars - totaled them, etc. I finally had enough when he quit college and just wanted to take a year off and gave him a couple of options - the one chose was to join the Air Force. It was very good for his particular personality - he needed the discipline to rein him in. He was like a kite on a string, being buffeted by all kinds of unseen forces. I empathize with the struggles they go through...but it's very hard on the 'parent' too, so you have my sympathy. ;-)

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    1. Yes, I feel that, too, Kathy. The struggle to individuate and break away from parents is a balancing act. In my own case, I was a late bloomer, so I struggled at a time when most had already resolved the problem.

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