Cognitive Daily

Chimp playing Ms. Pac Man

You think you’ve seen it all, and then you see this…

(via bOING bOING)


  1. #1 Kambiz Kamrani
    July 12, 2006

    That’s Kanzi! He’s at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa.

  2. #2 Gerry L
    July 12, 2006

    Apparently that is Kanzi — a bonobo, not a chimp — who now lives in Iowa at the Great Ape Trust ( He is one of the most studied apes in the world.

    Have you ever seen Ai, a chimpanzee who lives in Japan and who plays counting games on a computer. Her young son watched her and figured out how to play the games. (

  3. #3 gbruno
    July 12, 2006

    kanjii is something of a superstar.
    Strangers visiting should be careful, particularly if male. Kanjii reported to have bitten a fingetip off a male visitor (or maybe it was some other bonobo?)

  4. #4 gbruno
    July 13, 2006

    I may have conflated 2 incidents. Kanji is maybe guilty merely of flinging shit?

  5. #5 Dave Munger
    July 13, 2006

    Oh, yes. These chimps get treated like royalty. Some of the research done with them may be quite good, but it’s hard to escape the notion that much of the work with them is rather like spoiling a child who’ll never grow up.

  6. #6 tim byron
    July 13, 2006

    To my eyes, there isn’t much that this chimp is doing in this video which shows he actually understands what Pac-man is, because he actions whilst playing are essentially fairly random and stop-start. I’d say it’s more likely that any purposefulness is his game is more because he’s more responding to Savage-Rumbaugh’s (assuming this is Kanji) excitement, in an operant conditioning kind of way.

  7. #7 Dave Munger
    July 13, 2006


    There are a couple moments where it looks like the chimp is actively controlling the game, but for the most part, I’d agree with you. It’s like those toddlers who are constantly begging parents for quarters to play the game. They usually don’t even notice when the game’s over and back in “demo mode.”

  8. #8 Katherine Moore
    July 13, 2006

    I’d agree with Tim and Dave. The chimp didn’t seem to be doing well enough at the game that it was apparent he knew what the rules were. Like a toddler, I expect he might not notice if it were in demo mode.

  9. #9 steven2
    July 13, 2006

    i love how this woman researcher that loves these guys so much doesnt seem to realize all she is doing is possibly training them for when they can be used as some sort of slaves.. silly silly blind researcher..

  10. #10 Tiax
    July 13, 2006

    This would be so much cooler if the monkey were playing Donkey Kong.

  11. #11 Dave Munger
    July 13, 2006

    Tiax, you win the “day’s best comment” award. Hilarious!

  12. #12 word9995
    July 13, 2006

    Id be much more impressed if it was playing grid wars or tetris.

  13. #13 Brian
    July 15, 2006

    Videos like this are fun and intriguing to watch, but the skeptics are right that the video doesn’t really show enough toconvince us that Kanzi is playing it how a human child at a particular age does. One could, however, statistically analyze his joystick movements to see if they correspond to what is on the screen and how ‘intelligently’. I suspect you’d find he has figured out that joystick movements affect what is happening, but you’d hafta see the data to say much more.

    At any rate, I think there’s much more interesting and scientific data out there for both chimps and other primate species (i.e. capuchin monkeys). Peer-reviewed journal articles demonstrate their ability to navigate 2D and 3D mazes on a screen using a joystick (or touchscreen?), analyze any errors and where they occur, etc. And this stuff is done with controls against simple operant conditioning explanations and against an experimenter biasing the results (e.g. cueing the subject). Non-human primates can indeed play video games, and often quite intelligently — though perhaps the representational ghost-chasing aspect or the complicated make-ghosts-not-bad-by-hitting-item rules of a Pacman type of game are less likely to be comprehended.

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