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Smart Sarah

Some years ago a fictional chimpanzee used colors as sign language to act as a witness in a mystery novel. Now Sarah, an actual chimpanzee, seems to be outdoing fiction. She is reported to have given evidence of certain reasoning powers, the first direct evidence to invalidate, in her testers' words, "the extreme claims that reasoning is an exclusively human cognitive ability."

There are cautionary words about the data not supporting broad claims of reasoning in animals. Scientific controversy over the experiment would not be surprising. Sarah alone, however, is enough to renew one's sense of wonder about living things in an age when technology gets the headlines. Anyone with a pet suspects that, if it only could speak, what tales it could tell! But could it detect analogies as Sarah did? Here's the kind of thing she got right 77 percent of the time:

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She displayed her yellow symbol for "same" when shown a knife with a cut apple opposite a pair of scissors with a wet piece of cut paper. She displayed her red symbol for "different" when shown the same objects except for a bowl of water replacing the scissors.

Sound a little like one of those multiple- choice aptitude tests? At any rate, it's worth noting as one more example of the outreach of human understanding toward all creatures g reat and small.

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