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WCALB | Past Program, 2012

Winter Conference on Animal Learning and Behavior
Winter Park, Colorado
January 28 through February 1, 2012


Saturday, January 28, 2012

7:30 Buffet Reception
Snowblaze Building B, Unit 34

Sunday and Tuesday sessions are in the Conference Room on the second floor of Snowblaze, main building. Monday’s Session is in Snowblaze Building B, Unit 34. The Conference Room will open a half-hour before a session is scheduled to begin for those who want to arrive early and "mingle". Five minutes is added to indicated presentation times for discussion.


Sunday, January 29, 2012


Francys Subiaul, Chair

Project Nim. The Untold Story

Herb Terrace

Columbia University

Abstract--In the mid-70’s, I directed a project at Columbia University to teach Nim, an infant chimpanzee, to use American Sign Language. Project Nim, a documentary that opened on July 8, loosely describes the project. It shows Nim interacting with his teachers after he arrived from his birthplace at the Primate Institute in Norman, Oklahoma when he was two weeks old. Viewers would have to close their eyes not to appreciate Nim’s loveable personality and his endearing antics. But, unfortunately, they would be hard pressed to see the science on which the project was based.  

That’s because the documentary pointedly avoided that topic, -which is a shame because the project provided important scientific insights into what chimpanzees can tell us about humanity. The project’s goal was to determine whether a non-human primate could learn to use grammatical rules to create particular meanings, the essence of language. Positive evidence of Nim’s grammatical ability would undermine the claim of human uniqueness in the animal kingdom. Negative evidence would raise the question, “Why can’t a chimpanzee learn a grammatical language?” My talk today addresses that question and also outlines what there is about the evolution of humans that made them specifically equipped to learn language.


Theory of Mind: Current Status of the Controvery

5:25 Focus Session I
Kerry Jordans, Chair

Metarepresentation and mindreading: Where to draw the line?. Cameron Buckner (University of Houston) (25 min)

The Ecological-Behavioral-Jamesian Research Program Raises Difficult Questions for "Theory of Mind". Eric P. Charles (Pennsylvania State University) (25 min)

What Can Fruit Flies Tell Us About the Evolutionary Roots of Language? Bjoern Brembs (Freie Universität, Berlin) (25 min)


Monday, January 30, 2012

4:15 "Project Nim" Presentation

Ten-Minute Break

5:45 Discussion of "Project Nim"

Five-Minute Break

Bi-Directional Transfer Between Performance on Transitive Inference and Simultaneous Chaining Paradigms. Herb Terrace (Columbia University) (25 min)

8:15 Conference Dinner at Fontanot's


TUESDAY, January 31, 2012

4:30 Comparative Psychology of Information Processing, Animal Learning Models of Drug Abuse
Carl Danson, Chair

One, Two, Three: How Orangutans and Human Children Order Meaningless and Meaningful List Items. Francys Subial (George Washington University) (15 min)

Functional Features of Speech by a Nonhuman Speaker. Erin Colbert-White (University of Georgia) (15 min)

Ethanol Self-Administration, Chronic Stress, and Spontaneous Recover in Rats. Cody Brooks (Denison University) (15 min)

Ten-Minute Break

Conditioned Inhibition and Deepened Extinction of Cocaine Seeking. Stanley J. Weiss, David N. Kearns & Brendan Tunstall (American University) (25 min)

Increasing Environmentally Friendly Behavior Through the Application of Basic Behavioral Principles. Scott Cohn (Western State College of Colorado) (15 min)


WCALB Organizing Committee

Stan Weiss, Convener & Program
Rick Bevins
Cody Brooks
Kevin Myers, Program & Focus Session
Mark Reilly
Bill Timberlake


WCALB 2012 Participants

William Barber
Melinda Beane
Tayler Birdsall
Bjoern Brembs
Cody Brooks
Cameron Buckner
Eric P. Charles
Scott Cohn
Erin Colbert-White
Maxwell Crino
Carl Danson
Kerry Jordan
Stephanie LaFarge
Francys Subiaul
Herb Terrace
Stan Weiss

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