Personal Response- Is Koko A Fraud?

In this weeks reading Wrangham made a point that the gorilla named Koko preferred cooked food over raw food. And he was able to distinguish whether he liked cooked food because it was easier to eat or whether he liked it because it tasted better. This interested me because it is such a controversial topic.

I feel that this test could have been given to many other primates, who couldn’t communicate like Koko, and had the exact same result. I mean, place raw meat and cooked meat in front of an animal, and they are going to pick the cooked, possibly because they have been raised out of the wild, or merely because they are wild and have never had cooked meat before.

Although, once we get to the cooked food preferences, every animal could respond differently to the question. For wild animals not raised in shelter, cooked food would taste better because they are used to eating raw tough meat, and for animals raised under human care, cooked food would better benefit them by being easier to eat because they would not have the stronger teeth and jaw muscles that the wild animals would have acquired.

Because this question could be answered so many different ways by anything or anyone, it is not unreasonable to say that Koko could have answered the question. Also, in class, MaryMargaret’s mother made the point that you can train any animal to repeat what you do. This is true, and it is possible that Koko has been trained to mimic the pattern of flailing hands around her, because she would probably get treats fed to her afterwards. Which means that she would not actually know how and what she was communicating. Also, a gorilla’s sign language has to be pretty darn difficult to translate, meaning that what Koko is “saying” could very easily be misinterpreted. And, one more thing, if Koko was taught how to sign, would they not try to teach her grammar so that researchers could try to understand what she was actually “saying?”

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2 Responses to Personal Response- Is Koko A Fraud?

  1. Mr. Sturdy Knight says:

    You are right, Bethany, that there are a number of interpretations for the evident preference for cooked food exhibited by Koko (and the other primate specimens cited by Wrangham). The real question, though, is whether any of these interpretations fail to support Wrangham’s central hypothesis in some way. I contend that there is no such interpretation; no matter how you look at the facts, they seem to offer some support for Wrangham’s ideas. Not necessarily indisputable support, and certainly not conclusive, but then, nothing in science ever is.

  2. bensmgb says:

    I agree with you Bethany, anyone number of factors could apply in this situation. Koko could have been trained to put that hand up or could have been raised on cooked meat. It has been proven that animals will generally go for cooked meat if it is presented to them. Very good topic to bring up.

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