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Science & Tech

Animal Intelligence

Dr. Jane Goodall

Lesson time 12:20 min

Dr. Jane teaches you some of the incredible secrets she’s uncovered about the intelligence of the animal and plant kingdoms, from chimps to trees.

Dr. Jane Goodall
Teaches Conservation
Dr. Jane Goodall shares her insights into animal intelligence, conservation, and activism.
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If you look at what's been done with captive chimps in the field of intelligence, we have a whole other window into the chimpanzee mind. So they can be taught the signs of American Sign Language that's used by deaf people-- ASL. And they can learn 400 or more of those signs. And they can communicate, to some extent, with each other-- although usually it's with their teacher. Some chimpanzees-- not all-- love to paint. And this is in captivity, of course. And those chimps who've learned sign language will tell you what they painted. There's a very famous chimpanzee in Japan called Ai. And Ai learned so many things that she accomplished on a computer. And one of them-- imagine that you have a split screen on this side. You have numbers which appear randomly from 0 to 9. And, on the other side, there are 0-9 blank squares. And so Ai's task was to memorize the position of the randomly appearing numbers and then replicate that on this side. At the moment she pressed the first one-- 0-- that screen disappeared. And I've watched Ai several times. It's completely amazing how she remembers. And she enjoyed doing this so much, as soon as Matsuzawa called to her, she wanted to come and do this task. And she'd press these buttons. And if she made a mistake, the computer would make a kind of eh noise. If she did it right, she would get a little reward. If she made too many mistakes, at the end, she would sit there and beg to do the test again, even without getting any rewards-- simply so as not to make mistakes. And then she had a son, Ayumu. So the plan was, Ayumu wasn't going to be taught by humans. And so is Ayumu is just with his mother in the experiment room. Now Ayumu has become the equivalent of an enfant savant. And people have come from all over the world to try and beat him. He's got a photographic memory. So when you see the screen with numbers randomly from 0 to 9, by the time I found where 2 is, he's already started on the other side. And he never gets it wrong. He's just got this unbelievable photographic memory. So, you know, all the time, we're learning more and more different things about chimpanzee intellect. [MUSIC PLAYING] When parrot owners began talking about their birds, very often knowing exactly what the words they were using meant, and using them in the right context, science pooh-poohed it. Because the parrot brain is structured differently and, therefore, the birds are not capable of the kind of intellectual performances that mammals are. Well, this myth was broken by scientists studying crows in Oxford University in England. And they were studying two Caledonian crows, who were given a very simple task-- a glass tube with, I think it was a peanut at the bottom-- maybe a raisin, I'm not sure-- and a piece of wire with a sort of hook on the end. And they very quickly learned to push this down an...

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There is still a window of time. Nature can win if we give her a chance. In her first ever online class, Dr. Jane Goodall teaches how you can conserve the environment. She also shares her research on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees and what they taught her about conservation. You'll learn how to act locally and protect the planet.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I'm increadibly gratefull for this masterclass, this wisdom and courage I got with learning from it. Ready to make this world a better place!! Thank you so much.

Incredible class. If new ones in this area are included, I am in, along with with people I have talked to about this. Thank you!

Jane is very inspirational! She let me see things in a new way.

I took this class as I have always loved animals. Jane is an inspiring individual that made me want to be a better person.


Bernardo F.

Maybe we don't have enough proofs to say that animals are intelligent, and the problem is that intelligence is a human concept. And most tasks that animals are taught fall into human behaviour: communicating using a set of signals or symbols, performing an action, following the rhythm of a song, etc. Animal intelligence falls within each species, and sometimes, even at individual level on how to solve problems in their natural environment. That's animal intelligence! And that's something we can not deny! Sure, there are arguments from multiple points of view, whether it's instinct, or chance, or conditioning, teaching... Nevertheless, animals do what they "feel" its right for that situation, if they "are wrong", natural selection takes place.


Non-human animals do not have to prove anything to us to deserve our respect and compassion.


I realy loved this class! She is so clear when she teaches us. I just feel so bad for Chimps in captivity...


This was a really fun section to watch! I completely enjoyed the stories on animal intelligence. This whole course, thus far, is stirring up my imagination!

Marieke J.

I live on a farm sanctuary where we have several rescued pigs. One of them is named Clover, and I have been watching her for a long time because of how incredibly fast she learns. She is very strong so we have to keep a chain with a carabiner attacked to the gate so she doesn't escape. Clover has recently learned that she can push in the side of the carabiner and lift it up with her nose so the chain will fall out! We just can't keep up with her :)


An inspiring insight into animal intelligence - can't wait to research more about the animals she mentioned!

Emily B.

This lesson blew my mind! I watched the attached video of Ai and her son Ayumu playing the computer games and was completely flawed at how quickly Ayumu picked up the process and how speedy he was! Even when distracted he came back and completed the game flawlessly. Watching the humans struggle made me laugh, we really aren't as smart as we may think. The elitist mentality humans have is being forever challenged and needs to be deconstructed.


Here is one story that comes to my mind about animal intelligence: I was staying with a korean family in Japan. They had a small dog and the first time she barked at me, I thought she was sick or in pain or something, because she sounded so weird. But they explained to me, that the dog was fine and so I assumed it just had a weird bark. - And it wasn't just me. Visiting friends all pointed out that weird bark and asked if the dog was fine. Then, one day I was alone with the dog at home. She sat at the window looking outside, and it happened that another dog passed by. At that moment, she barked at the other dog - but this time it was a real "Wuff! Wuff!" - like any other dog would do. So in this moment I realized, that Roro was, when she was greeting me, trying to imitate a human voice! She totally blew my mind with that.

Matt C.

This is a fantastic video about the numbers task that Jane talks about in this episode, but it goes a little deeper and explains how that humans are incapable of completing the task because of our ability to speak. Highly recommend, and the host, Michael Stevens, explains it much better than I can, haha. Link:

A fellow student

Perhaps if humans could learn about how other species learn we could be better teachers.