Entries in Literacy (2)


Baboons Can Recognize Words, Study Finds

Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Researchers in France discovered that baboons can recognize hundreds of four-letter words on a computer screen, and they can tell a real word apart from a nonsense jumble of letters, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Every time they tapped the right icon identifying whether the letters on the screen were a real word or just a jumble, they got a treat. The baboons, however, are only spotting sequences of letters so they can get fed.  They don’t actually understand what the words mean.

“The baboons use information about letters and the relations between letters in order to perform our task… This is based on a very basic ability to identify everyday objects in the environment,” Dr. John Grainger at the Aix-Marseille University told BBC Nature.

In other words, any monkey can recognize that something is a word, but not every primate can be literate.  Still, the researchers say they are “excited” about the results of their study.  

Going into it, they didn’t know if the six Guinea baboons would be able to pull it off.  Dan the Baboon will never appreciate Dr. Seuss, but it’s still pretty impressive that he can recognize more than 300 words. And with further study we might learn something more from them about how humans first learned to read.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Foreign Languages May Protect Memory

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A new study suggests that speaking more than two languages over an entire lifespan may lower the risk of developing memory problems.

Researchers looked at 230 people with an average age of 73 years who had spoken or currently speak two to seven languages, and evaluated their thought processes by psychological evaluation. The authors – taking into account the participants’ age and education – discovered that people who spoke three or four languages during their lifetime or picked up a new language in their senior years were approximately three times less likely to develop memory problems than people who spoke two languages.

Authors of the study – conducted by Fonds National de la Recherché Luxembourg and presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology – concluded that practicing multiple languages over an entire lifespan can be as protective for memory as practicing languages as a senior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio