Chimpanzees communicate with gestures in the same way that we humans use words. But when it comes to communicating emotions, chimps share in our grunts and groans. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.
Roger Fouts is co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute at Central Washington University.
“Their sounds are like our emotional sounds, our screams and so on. Often times, at restaurants when the desert trolley comes down you hear these ummmm, ummmm, ummmm sounds which are human food grunts, or our versions of them anyway. And I’m sure people aren’t thinking, my gosh that’s a good looking piece of pie, I’m going to go ummmm. It just sort of comes out, it’s drawn out of them. The same is true with chimps. ”
Chimps have over twenty-five different sounds they make which are associated with various emotions, including happiness, aggression, and alarm. They’re all part of a vocal repertoire which Roger Fouts has observed over the past thirty years while working with a chimp named Washoe.
“For example Washoe would always give herself away when she was stealing goodies. If we forgot to lock the refridge, and she’d open it. You’d hear this ooohhhh, oooohhhh, and you’d know where she was, she was about to steal yogurt.”
Scientists say that one of the differences between chimps and humans is that chimpanzees have less control over their emotional reactions than humans do. If a chimp sees his favorite food, you can bet you’re going to hear about it.
To hear some of your favorite Pulse of the Planet programs online, please visit nationalgeographic.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.