Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
SAF Archives  search ask the scientists in the classroom cool science
scientists from previous shows
cool careers in science
ask the scientists

Photo of Sally Boysen SALLY BOYSEN

Sally Boysen received her Ph.D. in 1984 from Ohio State University. Her current research interests are animal cognition, with particular interest in the acquisition of counting abilities and numerical competence in nonhuman primates, cognitive development in the great apes, including attribution, self-recognition, and intentional behavior, and social behavior and tool use in captive lowland gorillas. Collaborative research with Gary Berntson includes the application of non-invasive psycho-physiological measures to attention and cognition in primates, and cardiac indices of visual and auditory recognition in the great apes. Sally is currently Consulting Editor for the Journal of Comparative Psychology.

Sally has been working with chimpanzees for more than 20 years, beginning in 1974 with a sign language project at the University of Oklahoma, with Dr. Roger Fouts and the chimpanzee Washoe. She came to Ohio State University in 1980 to finish her Ph.D., graduating in 1983. Her first two chimps, Kermit & Darrell, arrived at OSU in May, 1983, and she began her current teaching efforts with them. Sheba arrived in 1984, at age 2-1/2, after "retiring" as a public relations chimp for the Columbus Zoo.

Sally explains that working with chimpanzees is rewarding, but it requires a great deal of patience and persistence. "The chimps can sometimes be aggressive, or inattentive," she says, "because after all, they are NOT little hairy humans; they are WILD animals that are not domesticated, and they often act like they should -- like chimpanzees! But, it is worth taking the time with them, spending enough time socially with them, letting them play, etc., and we work our teaching/training sessions around all those other activities. That means it requires a great investment of time with them, but they are truly worth it! Even after more than 20 years, they continue to amaze and surprise me with their remarkable abilities!"

For more information about Sally Boysen, her research and a list of her publications, please visit her home page.

See Sally Boysen's answers to Ask the Scientists questions.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.