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This programme looks at various forms of communication systems of animals and humans used to demonstrate their respective communicative skills.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: E262, Language and learning
Item code: E262; 06
First transmission date: 23-06-1973
Published: 1973
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Producer: David Seligman
Contributor: John Oates
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Baboons; Bees; Biological communication systems; Categorisation experiment; Child conversation; Chimpanzee; Cognitive skills; Communicative skills; Cylinders; Nectar; Sea mammals
Footage description: John Oates comments on the various forms of communication systems that have evolved in different animal species to meet their needs. This is demonstrated by a series of shots. He comments on a shot of bees obtaining nectar. The wagging dance of the worker bees is explained: the speed of the dance in relation to the distance of the nectar, the angle of the dance in relation to the direction in which the nectar is situated. The speed of the dance at varying distances from the source of the nectar is also demonstrated. The shot explains how body movement is used for communication purposes. Baboons are shown using vocal signals for the purpose of communication. A non authentic signal from a tape recorder also causes them to run away. Shot of a chimpanzee in a human environment being trained to say simple words like 'mamma' and 'papa'. It is assumed that since it has no ability to make sentences it is therefore anatomically impossible for the chimpanzee to speak. Another chimpanzee in another experiment where symbols are used for the purpose of communication Each word is & coloured plastic shape. These symbols are arranged on a board to represent objects and placed in front of the animal in a vertical line. Questions are answered by removing the question mark symbol and replacing it with a 'yes' or 'no' symbol. The experiment was a success. John Oates comments that sea going mammals are the nearest to approaching human language. He introduces an experiment showing two dolphins, leach in a separate tank fitted with switches. The experiment demonstrate how the dolphins communicate by sound with one 'telling" the other which switch to press. The successful nature of the experiment suggests language ability in dolphins approaching humans. Shot of whales emitting sound recorded by underwater microphone. Shot of a child in the early stages of language development making incomprehensible noises. John Oates introduces a series of experiments which focus on the development of linguistic and cognitive skills. The first experiment shows the concept of conservation in a child. John Oates is seen with a girl and five pieces of plasticine rolled up in front of her. She rolls up one of the pieces and selects the rolled-up piece when asked to point out the bigger of two pieces. For her the exercise of rolling the plasticine increases the size of it. Commentary on the experiment points to the fact that the girl in the sequence has not yet achieved conservation as shown in her reasoning. John Oates repeats the same experiment with an older boy (aged 9) than the girl in the previous experiment. The boy argues out that the length of rolled-up plasticine does not add anything to its volume. Introduction of a more complex experiment: the re-building of 3X3 matrix cylinders that vary on two dimensions, height and width. Shot of a girl with John Oates showing the girl the matrix and cylinders as they are arranged. Pieces of cylinders are removed and the girl is asked to put them back; as they were. The experiment becomes progressively difficult when John Oates removes the cylinders and asks her to arrange them as they were previously. The girl fails in the final stage of the experiment and explains how she arrived at her final arrangement. John Oates comments on the last sequence about the girl's inability to form a complete image of the matrix to guide her reconstruction. A boy appears with John Oates as in the previous experiment and the exercise in the last sequence is repeated. The boy formulates rules to guide his action as demonstrated in his replies. Commentary on the last two experiments about the use of language in making judgement and abstract representation. Another experiment of language use in categorisation is introduced. Shot of a girl aged four with John Oates sorting out picture cards into groups and explaining the reasons behind her groupings. Commentary by John Oates on the categories chosen by the girl. Another girl is introduced for the same experiment on categorisation. The girl (aged 5) uses junctional links for categorisation as the girl in the previous sequence. She too explains the reasons for her groupings.
Master spool number: 6HT/70691
Production number: 00525_6006
Videofinder number: 3449
Available to public: no