Date of Award
Master of Arts
Jill D. Pruetz
Jill D. Pruetz
This is a visual communication study of the graphic sign making and recognition capabilities of bonobo-chimpanzees (Pan paniscus). The study applies principles of semiotics to assess the bonobo-chimpanzee's potential for meaningful communication through figurative signs. This research sees a distinction between art (expressive) and visual communication (informative), with emphasis on meaningful information exchange. Three tests are conducted. Test 1 involved the production of recognizable and representational imagery by bonobo-chimpanzees, who were asked in a standardized testing format to depict subjects from photographs. Test 2 was an assessment of their ability to recognize extremely simplified iconic signs to their respective photographs and remembering their intended meaning by selecting them from a series of two, three, and six different photographs. In Test 3, the bonobo-chimpanzees were asked for verification of each of their iconic drawings by matching to the photo each drawing from which it was depicted. These tests were statistically calculated for their significance (success rate). The capabilities needed to accomplish such tests are visual literacy and high cognition allowing for graphic representation and interpretation---an assembly of traits thought unique only to humans. These are capabilities that bonobo-chimpanzees have never shown empirically prior to this research. The results of this study show that bonobo-chimpanzees do have representational mark-making capabilities. They can recognize extremely simplified icons from photographs, and their marks have referential meaning to them across time. These results were statistically significant in Kanzi (bonobo-chimpanzee) and approaching significance in Pan Banisha (bonobo-chimpanzee). These results are deserving of a continued multidisciplinary approach to Hominid interspecies communication.
Digital Repository @ Iowa State University, http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/
Roffman, Itai, "Are bicultural bonobos able to recognize iconic representations and produce referential signs in human cultural terms?" (2008). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 15378.