Nim Chimpsky (November 19, – March 10, ) was a chimpanzee that was the subject . H.S. Terrace, in his article “How Nim Chimpsky Changed My Mind”, quotes Nim’s longest sentence as the word-long “Give orange me give eat. the lead investigator, announced he had changed his mind (always an The film is based on a book, Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would. If Herbert Terrace had his way, before any discussion about his research in the But to Terrace’s mind, the tendency can cloud people’s judgment as it relates to a research study with a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky (a nod to Chomsky.

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Subscribe for free weekly updates from this Today in History site. The Problem with Project Nim. In the s, linguist Noam Chomsky argued that children understand such differences even when hearing sentences for the first time. A behavioral scientist, Skinner specialized in conditioning animals to respond to complex stimuli.

Positive reinforcement, Skinner said, is what nudges us ever closer to correct grammar and precise sentences.

This was good news for animal-language researchers, who were teaching apes, our closest relatives on the evolutionary tree, to use human language.

Apes lack the vocal cords necessary to produce human sounds, so they were taught to use sign language or visual symbols. The results, though questionable, were intriguing: The most commonly cited of these studies featured chimpanzees Lana and Washoe inand Sarah in The most memorable, however, is Project Nim. The first word I first saw Nim Chimpsky at a film festival. Onscreen, in an award-winning documentary based on a book, Nim will not fail to win your heart — nor his story to break it.


Project Nim began inled by Herb Terrace. He thought the earlier studies relied too much on anecdotal evidence.

How Nim Chimpsky changed my mind

With more reliable data, he believed, he could prove Chomsky wrong once and for all. To be able to teach someone, you must form a bond with them. She was raising seven children when she adopted Nim, bim only breastfeeding him but teaching him human traits such as wearing clothes and brushing his teeth.

What on earth for??

Indeed, at 2 and a half months, Nim signed his first word: Whenever it happened, it was the first step toward the words Nim would acquire during the short-lived project.

By many accounts, it was also a shoddy project.

Nim Chimpsky – Wikipedia

Team members left the program due to professional disagreements, bedroom politics and other drama; and Nim had to re-bond with different caregivers. He was taught by more than 60 teachers — surely a terrible educational approach. This was due to scarce funding, a frequent circumstance in research, forcing Terrace to rely on volunteer teachers.

The sad end Nonetheless, Nim learned to sign multi-word demands: Bythe team had acquired a large enough sample to begin data analysis. At the same time, serious problems arose: When Nim attacked a team member, Terrace shuttered the project.

Mihd moving from your house, chnged you slept on a bed, and living for the rest of your life in a cage, sleeping on a cement floor. Nim was returned to his birthplace, but no matter how humane the Institute of Primate Studies might have been, the damage had been done.


Then the institute, too, ran out of funds, and the chimps were sold to a medical laboratory. He struggled with depression and aggression for the rest of his life, though he never had to move again. Inhe died of a heart attack. Pictures from the same photo shoot accompanied many articles published when the project was newsworthy. Yet Nim was bred for science, to be sent off once the experiment was over. He was a research subject, not this created child.

This raises the question: Was the language debate resolved, at least? Nim made 20, word change, but the videotapes showed he was mostly imitating his teachers. His longest sign sequence was: Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you.

Therefore, Terrace was forced to conclude, Nim only learned words and formed rudimentary phrases. Apes cannot use grammar to construct sentences. Chomsky 1, Terrace 0. So Nim gave his life to prove a negative result. I can barely reconcile this conflict, and that is the problem with Project Nim.

About the Editor Lane Graciano. Free Newsletter Subscribe for free weekly updates from this Today in History site. Follow Today in History.