The Mental Life of Monkeys and Apes eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 160 pages of information about The Mental Life of Monkeys and Apes.

The box stacking experiment, although it yielded complete success only as a result of suggestion on my part, proved far more interesting during its progress than any other portion of my work.  In connection with it, the orang utan exhibited surprisingly diverse and numerous efforts to meet the demands of the situation.  It is fair to characterize him as inventive, for of the several possible ways of obtaining the banana which were evident to the experimenter, the ape voluntarily used all but two or three, and one of these he subsequently used on the basis of imitation.

Had Julius been physically and mentally mature, my results would undoubtedly have been much more impressively indicative of ideas, but even as matters stand, the survey of my experimental records and supplementary notes force me to conclude that as contrasted with the monkeys and other mammals, the orang utan is capable of expressing free ideas in considerable number and of using them in ways highly indicative of thought processes, possibly even of the rational order.  But contrasted with that of man the ideational life of the orang utan seems poverty stricken.  Certainly in this respect Julius was not above the level of the normal three-year-old child.

In common with other observers, I have had the experience of being profoundly impressed by the versatility of the ape, and however much I might desire to disprove the presence of free ideas and simple reasoning processes in the orang utan, I should feel bound to accept many of the results of my tests as evidences of such experience.

I have attempted to indicate briefly the historical setting of my investigation.  I propose, now, in the concluding section, to look forward from this initial research and to indicate as well as I may in a few words the possibilities of results important for mankind from the thorough study of the monkeys and anthropoid apes.



[Footnote 1:  Much of the material of this section was published originally in Science (Yerkes, 1916).]

I should neglect an important duty as well as waste an opportunity if in this report I did not call attention to the status of our knowledge concerning the monkeys and apes and present the urgent need of adequate provision for the comparative study of all of the primates.

Although for centuries students of nature have been keenly interested in the various primates, the information which has been accumulated is fragmentary and wholly inadequate for generally recognized scientific and practical needs.  There is a voluminous literature on many aspects of the organization and lives of the monkeys and apes, but when one searches in it for reasonably connected and complete descriptions of the organisms from any biological angle, one, is certain to meet disappointment.

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The Mental Life of Monkeys and Apes from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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