Professor to discuss chimpanzee intellegence

Lindsey Reed

Keeli, Ivy, Kermit, Darrell, Sarah, Abby, Digger, Bobby, Sheba, Emma and Harper are learning to read and solve math problems.

But they’re not like other humans. In fact, they aren’t even human.

They’re chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee intelligence will be the focus of a discussion tonight at Van Meter Auditorium.

Sarah “Sally” Boysen, psychology professor and member of the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State University, will speak at 7 p.m. tonight for “Inside the Mind of the Chimpanzee,” a lecture on chimpanzee intelligence.

“Essentially, the work she has done focuses on chimpanzee language,” said Louella Fong, Consumer and Family Sciences department head and co-chair of the steering committee that chose her to come to Western.

Boysen also taught taught the chimpanzees, whose age range from 3 to 44 years, American Sign Language and ways to understand the mental states of other chimps.

She has taught the chimpanzees, a majority of which were reared in her home, to learn concepts and to count. She also has studied the meaning of the sounds they make, Fong said.

Psychology Department Head Steven Haggbloom suggested that Boysen come to campus.

“The kind of work she does on the mental process of chimpanzees is something that brought appeal not only to people in psychology, but to a broader audience,” he said.

Boysen will probably talk about the current controversy of whether or not chimpanzees have a concept of self and if they can extend that to other people or chimpanzees, Haggbloom said.

Fong said she encourages the whole community to attend Thursday because of Boysen’s mass appeal.

“It is a different but familiar topic, and it should give a lot of insight,” she said. “It’s a great learning opportunity.”

Boysen will not be bringing any of the chimpanzees, but she will be bringing tapes and a PowerPoint presentation for the hour-long discussion.

The lecture is a part of the Boyd-Lubker Visiting Scholar Program established last year in memory of Dr. George and Lucille Boyd, who had connections with Western. The program allows scholars to present various topics of interest to the university and the community, Fong said.

Boysen was selected out of 23 applications due to her vast amount of research and is the first outside speaker in the series.

Besides tonight’s lecture, Boysen also spoke to various classes about her experiences. Psychology professor Katrina Phelps had Boysen speak yesterday in her child psychology class.

She said that she hopes students learned more about the behavior comparisons between different species.

All the students got into a circle and listened to Boysen share incredible stories about chimpanzees and how she got involved working with them, she said.

Phelps said that the type of studies Boysen deals with are beneficial to her students.

“Anytime you want to see what mechanisms and processes are involved in human development, it is helpful to compare it with other species’ (development),” she said.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected].