PSYC 512 Psychology of Primates- Fall 08

PSYC 512 01 12917 Psychology of Primates  4.0
T R 0940-1100 AM CON 101 J Limber

Daily notes

These are my own notes and record of what we covered (discussed/viewed) in class. They also may include other relevant material I didn't mention but should have if time (or memory) allowed. They are not necessarily complete but should be reviewed before exams as I might add or revise at any time. (I left some items in from last semester.) I usually try to log my notes each day and will modify any contents that need it. New assignments will be found here as well.

week 1

See course description and other features of the webpage and course itself.

(Read about Tyson's Pygmie -- the "standing" chimp on my webpage,)

Timeline of primate evolution and more

"Adaptation" video intro compresses earth's history into a few minutes-- note the extinction of dinosaurs and portrayal of separation of apes and humans by the east African rift.

See timeline of evolution and overview notes. While all of us are aware that species come and go, many do not realize that the earth itself undergoes changes (in continents, geology and temperature) at a less noticeable rate but those changes have had a dramatic effect on shaping life on earth. Note the discussion of Madascar in Life in the Trees, now an island, populated by lemurs found nowhere else.

Show "Life in the trees"  Everyone should know the distinguishing characteristics of primates, something about all the apes and their similarities with various species of Homo  xxxx including us humans.  We should also know about a few non-ape species that have served as "animal models" for human behavior.  These would include OW rhesus monkeys and other macaques (some of which are misleadly known as Barbary Apes even though they are monkeys), baboons (also monkeys), the NW capuchin and tamarin monkeys, and some prosimians such as lemurs. Others may be added to this list.

The one important correction to the "Life in trees" video is the statement that humans and chimps shared a common ancestor some 15 million years ago (mya). Since that video was made, we have learned that there is only about 5 to 7 million years difference between chimps -- our closest relative -- and humans. Read a recent entry in "what's new.."

New discoveries continue to be made - new species found, more about relationships among existing ones revealed -- either from new fossil or DNA findings. See recent items in "what's new..."

How do we know this? See the next video, Children of Eve.

 But first see the slides in "primate family" topic notes. Also see the recent discovery in the "News" regarding genetic differences determining primate forelimbs. (Compare mammal forelimbs with primates' forelimbs - of course primates including us humans are also mammals...)

week 2


The EHE readings are on Blackboard; the Limber "...Fascination..." reading is online.


Show/finish "Children of Eve" video -- at the time of production this was quite revolutionary in its claims. These biochemical, DNA analyses are even more sophisticated today and can reveal historical relatedness not visible in fossil comparisions. We could view a more recent version of this but the mild controversy discussed about the methods and conclusions on date of a common human/chimp ancestor illustrates the process of science. Sarich's conclusions could have been wrong -- even today if someone finds a non-hoaxed big skull dating to 3 or 4 mya, all bets are off.. Recent work (see video notes and "news" ) confirms most of these conclusions and debate has focused on precise timing of the "out of Africa" migration of modern humans. Estimates range between 150,000 and 50,000. For our purposes, we can say that about 100,000 years ago modern human bodies roamed into the middle East, Asia and Europe. The oldest fossil representing these modern humans is about 100,000 years old , found in Iraq.


What did Darwin think, circa 1830-1871?) He had no hominid fossils, no DNA -- heredity was a complete mystery though Darwin created his own bogus theory of "pangenesis." Not until the 20th century did any real understanding of inheritance surface. (The word "gene" was created about 1909; the term "genetic" as used by Piaget (1896-1980) meant only "growth.")

Darwin's sketches of origins and relatedness of the apes to humans were remarkably accurate based on very little modern evidence. Here's what Darwin said:

" On the Birthplace and Antiquity of Man.- We are naturally led to enquire, where was the birthplace of man at that stage of descent when our progenitors diverged from the catarhine* stock? The fact that they belonged to the stock clearly shews that they inhabited the Old World; but not Australia nor any oceanic island, as we may infer from the laws of geographical distribution. In each great region of the world the living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is therefore probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man's nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our early progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere. (Ch.6, Descent of Man....)"

*What is "catarhine?" I looked it up.
Function: adjective
Etymology: New Latin Catarrhina, from Greek katarrhina, neuter plural of katarrhin hook-nosed, from kata- + rhin-, rhis nose
Date: 1863
" of, relating to, or being any of a division (Catarrhina) of primates comprising the Old World monkeys, higher apes, and hominids that have the nostrils close together and directed downward, 32 teeth, and the tail when present never prehensile

Both PBS and the BBC have websites on human evolution that are worthwhile.

Begin Orangutan video on the most distant large ape. Read about orangutans in the overview. Note that while researchers focus on chimps as tool-users, orangs certainly have the eye-hand coordination and dexterity to use many human tools. Their apparent lack (but see short video clip) of natural tool use is probably a matter of their environment, not their capability in using tools.

I have kept up a "timetable" of primate events, beginning at the beginning!

Again see the slides in "primate family" topic notes. Also see the recent discovery in the "News" regarding genetic differences determining primate forelimbs. (Compare mammal forelimbs with primates' forelimbs - of course primates including us humans are also mammals...)

Begin Galdikas orangutan video; read the video notes. There's a new orang book just published, supposedly excellent.


week 3

See the overview of the primate family-- especially comparisons across basic features.

Read about their features and the video notes for the next great ape, Gorilla!

Comment on Gomez book. (Also in topic notes under 'text notes."

A brief discussion of primate cognition --

a- flexibiliity of behavior. Primates are particular good at changing their behavior in response to new problems. this a function of several morphological developments, notably very flexible grasping forelimbs and relatively large increase in neocortex. Long life and a long juvenile period enables much learning from others -- especially mom. (Contrast flexibility with reflexes.)

b- the use of mental representations. Primates are good at apparently working out problems "in their heads" without taking a risk required in more overt "trial-and-error" learning. How they get specific bits of knowledge remains to be determined -- is it from memory of prior experiences, observations of others in similar situations, instinct, lucky guess? Probably all of these work together in any given case.

(Humans carry this to an extreme with overt models of situations -- experiments, model planes, math models -- but other primates seem to be able to use visual imagery. Human minds are filled with "tools" --language, math, logic -- that can represent virtually anything. These are cultural "add ons" not found in the naive mind.)

Memory plays a role in these cognitive processes for obvious reasons -- see long life above. For example the "law of effect" in trial and error learning could not work without a tacit memory of prior succeses and failures.

What's intelligence?. More on this later but my idea of "intelligence" has to do with the degree of "flexibility" in the individual organism in regard to solving problems. This leads to the idea that intelligence can only be assessed when we know how a problem is solved. If the organism has little choice or degrees of freedom, then little intelligence is involved -- on the other hand -- if there are lots of alternatives and the correct solution is found, that indicates intelligence. Thus flying is not particularly indicative of intelligence in birds but it would be in primates. Instinctive behaviors therefor typically are not indicative of "intelligence" -- just the opposite as they require little and all the species do it as result of being a normal species member.

3. Primates and their lives -- see videos and notes.

You might ask yourselves as you watch these videos, why are most of these non-human primates considered on the brink of extinction, e.g. maybe six or seven thousand gorillas compared with 6 or 7 billion humans? And just 150,000 years ago there were amost no humans!!


Baboon video (read the notes, too) Baboons, despite being monkeys, have often been seen as a "model" for human evolution. Why do you think someone would think so?

Comment on the issue of "anthropomorphism" -- as problem in understanding and as an advantage in understanding other species-- also related to human "theory of mind" (ToM).

See the Gorilla video when we get it back; read the notes now. Read about the misadventures of Little Joe at the Franklin Park Zoo, Boston.

week 4 get study guide to exam 1 here. See the exam page for last year's exam.


For old exams, go to exam page. If you have specific questions while reviewing, send them to Blackboard. I will check it several times a day. Maybe someone else has asked a similar question.

If you ask about a specific question on an old exam or study guide, write out the question completely. Don't say "I'm having a problem with #23 on the 1957 exam."

Look briefly at the recent news items-- we've been talking about hands, faces, diet, baboons-- all in recent news items.

Any questions on the above (week 3 comments) on primate cognition?

show video clips of baboon vs chimp in collecting termites. Why the differences?

Show video clip of inherited prosopagnosia. (Use this as a case to discuss Darwin's idea of "fitness.")


Discuss primate brains and primate senses -- please read the notes. (finish video 'extreme senses' if possible.)


More examples of anthropomorphism-- sound tracks and emotion.



What's the difference between a monkey and an ape?

They have a lot in common, naturally, and there's a lot of overlap. But -- monkeys are generally much smaller and can have tails (NW monkeys only have tails and no apes do; no apes live in the NW; barbary apes are macaque monkeys.) . No ape has a tail and only the gibbons (known as lesser apes) are close in size to the larger monkeys. Apes seem to have shoulders more adapted for swinging through trees rather than running and jumping. Apes tend to have larger relative brain size (though some smaller monkeys like capuchins may be competitive). See this zoo site for more info -- including another summary of the primate family that may be useful for essay #2.

In fact, social complexity may be one of the most important factors in the synergy of human evolution --pushing up brain size, greater social bonding, and communication complexity (i.e. human language evolution.) As we know, all this is synergistic with reproduction-- brain size, cervical opening, immature infants , and dependent mothers.


Visit the comparative brain museum. Comments on brain topics.




week 5 --exam 1, Tuesday Sept.30

exam 1 - will take at least 10 days to grade

See notebook for more notes. (I'm trying out a new notekeeping method.)

Contrast/compare apes, neanderthals, homo x (habilis, erectus, sapiens)

Begin Gorilla video ; review notes ; see some video bits on primate vocalization

week 6

finish Gorilla ; read about Little Joe's escape from Frankin Zoo, Boston.

Contrast/compare apes, neanderthals, homo x (habilis, erectus, sapiens) continued from last week.

See bits of recent Neanderthal video- note methods used to infer behavior, esp brain, inner ear, arm/hand. (Know about endocasts, hyoid bone, semicircular canals --also shown in "extreme senses."

See "New Chimps" video -- first review the apes "primate family"



week 7



Discuss exam 1 answers. Most did very well on this exam. I have to adjust the grades slightly due to a mistake on the scan answer sheet. Many of you will get another MC correct adding 1% to your grade; no one will get any less. Here are the corrected grades.

Comment on research projects. You may submit your topic, sample references, and brief outline any time but at least by November 22. E-mail submission is fine--(but not for final papers which must be printed.)

Review library search procedure. (This ppt presentation was prepared by my assistant, Erika Wells; the online version is not particularly good but it will help remind you if you need it.)

Demonstrate one search topic in Primate Lit, google scholar, Ebscohost (UNH library)

Example from Leno-- non-systematic trial and error learning with a bit of social priming?

****what then is intelligence?

summary points-- on intelligence, trial & error (T&E), insight, instinct, and social priming (benefitting from the knowledge of others in various ways)

Human language and other communication systems --only partially equivalent

the home raised ape projects (Kohts, Kelloggs, Hayes') - what aspects of ape-child differences are just due to environment? Many but not language--none of the apes come close to children in acquiring human language. See video clips of Gua & Donald Kellogg. Later see Vicki and the Hayes' experiments on chimp (lack of) vocalization as an instrumental response.

How many strings to make an octopus walk? It depends on how many "pods" it walks on!

week 8 -- get study guide here (tentative version)

finish "animal intelligence" video and review ideas on "intelligence" from above (copied below for convenience).

****what then is intelligence?

summary points-- on intelligence, trial & error (T&E), insight, instinct, and social priming (benefitting from the knowledge of others in various ways)


discuss tool use as manifestation of intelligence?? And use of abstract "mind tools" like language that radically extend the power of the human brain. Is this a result of social processes?

Piaget's stage theory encompasses much of this; hence its use in evaluating primate cognitive abilities-- sensorimotor intelligence, tool use, causality and beyond.


It is important to distinguish the natural forms of animal communication, use of HBC when humans interact with other species, and human language -- whose functions include social communication but go beyond that to include memory function, aspects of consciousness, and perhaps other cognitive processes.

Human languages are said to be "open" -- new concepts that humans develop can be encoded using the creative power of languages including complex phrases and coining new words. As far as we know, no animal communication system can be systematically expanded to communicate new situations or ideas.

Be sure to review what Gomez (2004) has to say about human language and its relation to ape communication. Compare apes, Neanderthal, and humans on language relevant dimensions.

week 09 exam 2 revised to Oct 30,

Overview of exam topics, esp on "intelligence."

(contrast the talking dogs with Vicki's pathetic efforts to speak. What does this tell us?)

Review Byrne's ideas on the evolution of primate cognition (p.170, TO). He makes two important suggestions on this topic--1. following Dunbar, complex primate society led to larger brains. 2. "The underlying cognitive superiority of great apes over monkeys might best be described as a difference in forming and manipulating mental representations-- data structures in the mind that correspond directly to objects and events in the world...manipulation...amounts to planning. " This largely reinforces Gomez themes.

finish "Ape genius" (See PBS video notes, especially Saxe interview. The video is online at PBS)

Finish any discussion of study guide. Maybe see Clever Hans and the Kellogg's testing of Gua & Donald and more on theory of mind?

discuss language evolution; see Language video.

See Social Brain video bits? (probably after exam?)

Show video clips of the now deceased Alex, the gray parrot. Read about him in the news. His trainer, Professor Pepperberg, coined the expression, "human based code (HBC)" to refer to the language that she used to communicate with Alex. She quite correctly points out that while it is "based" on human language, it is not a human language. She saw it as means to investigate parrot cognition.


Read an interesting paper on the evolution of language and that FOX2P gene.

week 10

Comment on research topics, news item, next topics-- social objects, language and communication, social/sexual/reproductive relationships, aggression, conflict & morality.

catch up on video (Social Brain, Language). Thursday: Finish Language video.

NSL video and HBC 'sign' language (Washoe, Koko...) Keep in mind the distinction between a "pidgin" and a "creole" -- the pidgin serves as an effective means of limited communication but lacks the full range of functions of a complete human language-- like a creole. This is most notable in the realm of creativity and the extent to which the system is open to novel messages. HBCs are at best, pidgin like-- though human pidgins probably are lexically open, ie. new words can be created.

For more on animal communication, see these older notes in need of some updating.

Some human language development video bits?

See Washoe obituary in News.

Compare apes, Neanderthal, and humans on language relevant dimensions.



week 11

Can we say anything interesting about language evolution? (See above FOX2P paper.)

(consciousness (C) in non-humans? (Video), overview of perspectives on what is C)?

See more on Bonobos (Last Ape; see notes here and at PBS)- and maybe "uncommon ape."

Look for exam 2 grades Thursday, pm. Please check your exam against online records.

The exams were generally excellent, with a few exceptions. It may be the highest average ever.

Comment on "adaptations for tools use" aspect of essay. The environment is not an adaption-- it may create them as follows.

The environment may SELECTING (i.e. natural selection) from VARIATIONS, those features (body characteristics, behaviors) that enhance fitness. For example those with features enabling better food supply have more offsprint (>FITNESS) and if those features are inherited, so will their offspring be better adapted.

week 12

Read this article on warfare in the news. And, sadly, a practical application of the concept here-- where Titus lives?

Tuesday finish bonobo video (Last Great Ape); show short gorilla clips on aggression between males for group control, gorillas as agricultural "pests" competing with local human farmers.

Thursday see Titus, Gorilla king. Read the news on current events in the Virunga area and here for general info on ape research sites in Africa.

read/review terms relating to sex and reproduction


week 13-- see study guide here Friday am at the latest; essays will be finalized except for minor wording by noon.

read/review primate reproduction, birth, development, parenting

Read about Harlow. His findings on maternal attachment and its impact on adult behavior are summarized in this sketch. (See topic notes for more on these issues.)

Mr Kusasi - orphan to king! Compare and contrast this king to the baboon king, Titus, and to the upcoming feature with Jane and Frodo the "thug" king!

short "Responsive Brain" video if we have time. In any case, read the video notes. This is one of more advanced topics in primate behavior -- how biological factors including biochemistry (neurotransmitters, hormones) create bodies and mediate their behavior under all sorts of conditions -- sexual, social, cognitive, stress,,etc, Youtube has a 3 minute ABC news report on this topic.


challenge to a dominant lowland gorilla (video)



week 14 exam 3,

review notes on aggression and ethics.

See Goodall's Return to Gombe-- another illustration of primate politics involving members of the F-troop especially Frodo.

Maybe squeeze in "facial attraction" video clip; in any case see news items on attraction. (Use search box on page; or maybe try Google pubpages?)

week 15--

Help on research papers? Be sure to have at least two recent references, one from a reviewed scientific journal.

The exam 3 answers are here now; the grades will be posted ASAP- maybe Monday?


Short bonobo video ; we saw the PBS The last ape-- Bonobos (video) Where did shame and embarrassment come from? Eve's eating the apple? The last video is Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees. See PBS and Goodall's website for more info on the F family of chimps.

NASA photo of Ham (first chimp in space!)

It is widely reported that female bonobos dominate male bonobos. While this is often true, I don't think it is true in all situations. Here is a paragraph from a recent study (note that most of these studies are in captive populations):

"For the moment the term nonexclusive female dominance (Vervaecke et al. 2000a) seems to apply best to the patterns of dominance in the 6 captive groups and has serious implications for interspecific comparisons. Nonexclusive female dominance in bonobos is different from complete female dominance in other species, such as spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta; Drea and Frank 2003) and lemurs (Lemur catta; Kappeler 1990; Propithecus diadema; Pochron et al. 2003; and Hapalemur griseus; Waeber and Hemelrijk 2003). However, female dominance among bonobos, even if nonexclusive, remains a striking contrast with chimpanzee society, wherein males generally dominate all females in the group (Goodall 1986). "

International Journal of Primatology
The Official Journal of the International Primatological Society
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007
Sex Differences in the Steepness of Dominance Hierarchies in Captive Bonobo Groups

Jeroen M. G. Stevens1, 2 Contact Information, Hilde Vervaecke4, Han de Vries3 and Linda van Elsacker2

or see this report from Wamba; Takeshi Furuichi (2004) International Journal of Primatology, 18,

Agonistic Interactions and Matrifocal Dominance Rank of Wild Bonobos (Pan paniscus) at Wamba

" Dominance between males and females is unclear, but females tended to have priority of access to food. The close social status between males and females may be related to the prolonged estrus of females and their close aggregation during ranging. Existence of a male''s mother in the group and her dominance status among females seemed to influence his dominance rank among males. "


**********new research on human sexual dimorphism--adapting to pregnancy

Fetal load and the evolution of lumbar lordosis in bipedal hominins

Katherine K. Whitcome, Liza J. Shapiro & Daniel E. Lieberman

Nature 450, 1075-1078(13 December 2007)





research projects due

Dec 15, 4:00pm.


Remember: Papers must follow APA style references and have at least two recent references --one of which must be in a published journal. No email papers will be accepted and a copy of your outline must be attached to the final paper. Any deviation from these requirements will result in a serious loss of points.

Papers following their approved outline and these other requirements are almost guaranteed a high grade (8.5-9.5 of 10).

Papers are due on or before Dec 14, 4pm. If I am not in my office --108 Conant Hall -- PUT IT UNDERMY DOOR AND SEND ME AN EMAILED COPY (512 in subject line) WHEN YOU CAN AS A BACKUP-- SECRETARIES ARE NO LONGER TAKING PAPERS.

Keep a copy for yourself.

NO email papers unless followed up with a printed copy in a day or so.




FINAL GRADES-- these will be posted as soon after Dec 15 as possible.