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Brakel, L.A. (1996). Cognitive Science: New Clues Surface about the Making of the Mind. Joshua Fischman. Science. CCLXII, 1993. Pp. 1517.. Psychoanal Q., 65:455.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Cognitive Science: New Clues Surface about the Making of the Mind. Joshua Fischman. Science. CCLXII, 1993. Pp. 1517.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:455

Cognitive Science: New Clues Surface about the Making of the Mind. Joshua Fischman. Science. CCLXII, 1993. Pp. 1517.

Linda A. Wimer Brakel

Fischman reports on the work of Sarah Boysen, an Ohio State University psychologist working with chimpanzees. Boysen had previously been able to demonstrate that chimps are capable of rudimentary addition using plastic Arabic numerals. She next tried to teach two chimps, Sarah and Sheba, the following numbers game. Having first established that they could both count the number of items represented by a particular numeral, and that they knew which numeral represented more items rather than less, the task was for Sarah to point to one of two plates presented. The one she pointed to first was to go to Sheba, the other she would get to keep. The fascinating finding was that although Sarah was perfectly capable of pointing to the plastic “3” first, giving it to Sheba, while keeping the “6” for herself, she could not inhibit her instinctual drive when actual gumdrops were present on the plates. Though she clearly knew four gumdrops are more than two, and five are more than three, she would point first to the plate with four or five candies again and again. A clearer demonstration of the psychoanalytically familiar concept of instinctual drive could hardly be imagined, although neither experimenter nor reporter drew this conclusion! (In terms of experimental design, I think an intermediate condition should have been employed: Seeing how the chimps did with neutral but not representational items on the two plates, say, four stones versus two stones.)

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Article Citation

Brakel, L.A. (1996). Cognitive Science. Psychoanal. Q., 65:455

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