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9.3 Video

9.3.1 Live television

Premack and Premack (1983) note that it is only with great difficulty an ape learns to use video information to look for objects. The cues that greatly help in this task can be explained by the television-as-window illusion. As expected from a reality-mode perspective, cues that strengthen the illusion of television as a window seems to enhance performance. The abstract to Menzel et al. (1978) reads: “Infant chim-panzees, after watching a small black-and-white closed-circuit television picture of a familiar caretaker walking out into an outdoor field and disappearing from sight, were more successful in finding the person than if they had been given no such cue;

and their performance approximated that which obtained after they had seen the same scene normally, via direct perception.” The closed-circuit video image gave live feedback that corresponded to the hider leaving the room, appearing on screen and hiding. Importantly, the television screen had been arranged so as to be in line with the view that the chimpanzees would have had if they had been watching the events through a window (Menzel et al. 1978, in Poss & Rochat, 2003).

In a different search task Poss & Rochat (2003) hid rewards in one of three dis-tinctive containers, either in view of the subjects or on live monitor broadcast.

Chimpanzees, orangutans, and human children (2-3 years) participated in the study.

It was found that apes were better than children when hiding took place on the tele-vision screen. Since filming took place behind a curtain directly behind the monitor there was no control for the window illusion, other than a familiarisation phase with the monitor and watching a live filming of oneself. This does not necessarily exclude a “magical window” attitude towards the monitor. Since the children had previous experience with television this probably explains why they were outperformed by the apes. Their experience of television as differentiated from what takes place in the actual room hindered children from making a connection between the monitor im-age and the hiding event which they knew took place behind the curtain. Cues that highlighted the hiding event, both visual and verbal, helped 3-year olds to better their performance. Simultaneously hearing the voice behind the curtain and seeing the actions commented taking place on television probably helped them to attend to the television – reality connection. If they had instead been made to believe that the television is a window of sorts, they might likewise have solved the task.

Troseth et al. (2006) found that 2-year old children did not follow instructions in a search task when they received them through a monitor, but when given the exact same information in face to face communication they succeeded to find the hidden item. However, if the children were first allowed to interact with the person on the video through a live broadcast they also started to pay attention to the instructions.

Troseth and colleagues mention that while children younger than a year old seem to glean social information from people on video, this “ability” seem to disappear with maturity. I believe that this effect is due to the breaking down of a reality mode processing due to differentiating experience. Or rather, a third, televised world is

created. With no recognition of a connection to the world outside of the screen children appear caught in-between reality mode and a full pictorial mode. But with help they can switch back to a reality mode view of video and solve certain tasks.

Poss & Rochat (2003) mention the television-as-window illusion, but it is a mystery why they do not control it, since they call their study an assessment of seeing video images as referential.

The televised hiding-of-food method has potential for settling the issue of whether video images can be seen as pictures or not, but certain measures has to be taken to minimalise the illusion of a window. With this comes the problem of ruling out the “magical” aspect as well. It is impossible to say to what extent magical think-ing can be stretched. If the familiar caregiver that does the hidthink-ing also is in view when the video is seen, does the informative function of a recording break down or is “being in two places at once” incorporated into the possibilities of the video world?

Can viewing oneself on video upset the belief that video is a form of window? Suc-cessful attempts have been made to allow apes (Menzel et al., 1985) to guide their hands through an opening and investigate the backside of an occluder by watching closed-circuit video. The two chimpanzees tested, Sherman and Austin, not only used the broadcasted video to direct their search in transfer trials, but showed a flexible adjustment to novel orientations of the screen, whether reversed, inverted, or both. They also readily made a difference between live and pre-recorded video, al-though the two chimpanzees did stick their hands through the openings to see if they appeared on the screen when there was, according to the video, already a hand there. They did not seem to expect to find another hand in the hole though. Testing the image like this might suggest that they were not entirely clear about the nature of the connection between the filmed events and reality. They might have believed that their actions were visible onscreen but somehow out of tune with their move-ments. Or they just wanted to test if the monitor would display their reaching after all, since the target was visible onscreen.

The development of Sherman and Austin’s understanding of television is well documented in Savage-Rumbaugh and Rubert (1986). The initial interest of Sherman and Austin towards commercial television was very weak. They also paid little attention to closed-circuit video of events that took place in other places of their facilities. Alike attitudes have been found for other chimpanzees towards such imagery.

Sherman an Austin were then involved in social viewing of films of a better qual-ity and in colour, mainly depicting other chimpanzees. They were encouraged to pay attention to the screen by the trainers who vocalised when interesting events occurred. In the beginning the chimpanzees’ attention span was short, but it steadily increased with time until they could watch a whole movie of approximately 30 min-utes. At this time they also began to show behavioural responses towards the content of the screen, such as “[…] display when they saw other males begin to display.

They attempted to inspect female swellings and attempted to bite the screen when particular chimpanzees appeared” (Savage-Rumbaugh & Rubert, 1986, p. 305). By now they showed great enjoyment in viewing chimpanzee movies and could

differ-entiate between old and new ones. They were also able to label objects with their lexigrams that were displayed on a small colour monitor.

When closed-circuit television was reintroduced Sherman and Austin this time spontaneously paid great interest in events in adjacent rooms. On the first occasion in which one of the chimpanzees was allowed to join the trainer in another room and the remaining chimpanzee followed this interaction on the monitor, the viewing chimpanzee anticipated the first one’s re-entry in the room by its first signs of mov-ing towards the door on the screen. The viewer had turned his attention to the door rather than the monitor. In subsequent testing the two chimpanzees clearly showed that they knew that they could move into the world seen onscreen, act upon it, and then return. They became very proficient in finding food hidden on closed-circuit video in this way. After the experiences with live video Sherman and Austin also became interested in several types of commercial television programmes. Not until now could television be used as enrichment when the apes were left on their own.

In a description of a typical afternoon session with Sherman and Austin when 7 and 6 years old respectively, they request to watch television. When watching mov-ies of other chimpanzees they display towards these. In what words should such be-haviours be described? Are they comments, social or private? Is it play and pretence involved? Is it a learned behaviour, a habit? Do they confuse video with reality?

Given that it is a spontaneous reaction, “acted out involvement” is perhaps the best description. But why do they get involved with such stimuli? Do they act out in the same way towards a photograph of a chimpanzee? Towards a chimpanzee doll? To-wards a lexigram that designates another chimpanzee? The element of the real is cer-tainly a factor in such involvement. It is not a mental phenomenon working from the inside out, but a response on outside cues.

That said, excitement evoked by a stimulus does not have to pertain to the stimu-lus as an object but to the associations started by the stimustimu-lus. For example, when happening upon some photographs of the gorilla Koko, Sherman got very excited.

Hair stood on end as he tapped one of the pictures with his finger. He continued to point to the photographs and ran excitedly around with them. Unusual for Sherman he then brought the photographs with him when he and his trainer went outdoors.

He continued to repeatedly point at them. He steered the trainer towards the gorilla quarters which he had been allowed to visit on previous outings, “an event which both scared and thrilled him” (Savage-Rumbaugh & Rubert, 1986, p. 282). The trainer understood what Sherman wanted and said “no” and steered in another di-rection. When Sherman’s request to go and see the gorillas was not granted he lost interest in the pictures, as well as losing his excitement, and even will to be outside.

The photographs of Koko were dropped to the ground and ignored. It seems that although Sherman was very excited about gorillas, and his response to the photo-graphs could be attributed to this fact, he had been more excited about the whole idea of going to see the gorillas than about the photographic expression as such.

Similarly, the anticipation of arriving food can be as exciting as the sight of food itself. Such behaviours can confound when trying to pinpoint true confusion behav-iours. Nevertheless, properties of the real still play a crucial role. A lexigram would on its own hardly evoke excited anticipation if it was not coupled with a promise of fulfilment, either by e.g. being pasted on a commonly baited food box or being part

of a discourse with a trustworthy caretaker. The evoked mental images in such con-texts include properties of the real. The word “cake” does not get your mouth wet, but adding a few visualisations the concept “cake” might. A photograph of a cake, in a fully differentiated mode, would also not whet your appetite, but adding a few associations it might. In a less differentiated mode it might indeed make your mouth water, and in a full reality mode you might even bite into it. The whole concept of gorillas flooded Sherman when he found those photographs in a context where he was about to go for an outing. Happening upon a lexigram, or a stuffed toy gorilla, might not have had the same effect.