Business, Politics & Society

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
In 29 lessons, 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.

Listening to Jane Goodall has made me aware of the most important things: the water, a better living style, in the full respect of animals, plants and our Earth.

I loved hearing Dr. Jane and learning from her experiences. It has made me realize how much I want to make a difference... How much I want to be a part of the movement to improve the health of the planet.

It was amazing jane is such an amazing wonderful person

This one was an impressive ride. At first it explains her life and how she got to where she is but really starts to shine when she explains how things interact and how she correlated her studies to actual answers rather than demands about things that need to be done.


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.

Mary H.

Intelligent Corvid behavior even appears in Aesop's Fable's (circa 250 BC) . Read the "The Crow and the Pitcher." The crow drops pebbles in the pitcher to make the water level rise.

Mary H.

If you are concerned about animal species, please print & display this sticker. Research climate engineering & share.

Dave R.

Great lesson on animal intelligence, it is a privilege to listen to Dr Goodall's body of work.

Mary H.

Go, Crow Family! : ) See Magpie (foreground) & deer at Magdalen College in Oxford.

Mary H.

Here is my response to the Zoo Atlanta Orangutan Touch Screen (i.e., computers for apes). This behavior was touted during my teacher workshop at Zoo Atlanta but it is not naturalistic. No touch screens for orangutans! Gaming Apes Wow Zoogoers

Amy K.

I just looked up N'Kisi, and apparently they have been working on research on interspecies telepathy...I was shocked when I saw the video. Website on the N'Kisi project: Video: Since this was over 15 years ago, does anyone know of any update on this sort of research?


I agree completely with the comment about human arrogance concerning intelligence. We evolved after a lot of these creatures which have been around for a long time, so it's obvious we've learnt it from somewhere. We owe them, not the other way around.

Svanfridur M.

Really, I don't understand how people still we are the only thinking, feeling, intelligent beings. It is so clear that there are others - we can see it every time a dog greets us at the door or a horse allows a little stick figure to ride it - and honestly, it shouldn't be surprising. Intelligence provides such a major evolutionary advantage that it allows us, weak and frail humans, to survive and become the dominant species on the planet. It would be absurd to think that others haven't struck such gold in the game of survival.