Psychology 1010N

York University, Toronto

Winter term, 2009/2010


The Ape and the Child: A Study of Environmental Influence Upon Early Behavior, published in 1933 by Winthrop and Luella Kellogg, describes their study of Gua, an infant chimpanzee, reared with their own infant son, Donald, for a period of nine months in the early 30's. A copy of the book is available in York's Scott library (BF 671 K4 1967).


Read a brief description of the Kellogg's research with Gua here.


John Limber, who teaches a course on primate psychology at the University of New Hampshire, provides some additional information on the Kellogg's research. The two links on his site are broken, but I have provided a working link to a film featuring Donald and Gua below.






Benjamin and Bruce describe the Kellogg's rationale for their investigation as follows:


The idea for the study emerged in 1927 when Kellogg was still a graduate student at Columbia University. Kellogg and Kellogg (1933) give us that date for the idea but not its source. However, our guess is that it was stimulated by an article on the "wolf children" of India which was published that year in the American Journal of Psychology (Squires, 1927). Similar to Itard's "wild boy of Aveyron," the wolf children were two young girls found in a cave inhabited by wolves. These children behaved as though they were wolves, eating and drinking like those animals and making no use of their hands except to crawl around on all fours, which was their method of locomotion. Eventually the girls learned to walk upright, although they could never run. One acquired speech, at least a vocabulary of approximately 100 words, but the other continued only to make grunting noises. Howling noises at night were never extinguished, nor were their human teachers able to break them of the rather distasteful habit of "pouncing upon and devouring small birds and mammals" (Kellogg, 1931b, p. 162). Both girls died at an early age. Like other feral children, the wolf children were judged to be sub-normal in intelligence and it was assumed that their intellectual deficits prevented them from being able to adapt to their new surroundings. This interpretation was common in explaining the problems of adjustment in feral children and was, in fact, the explanation offered by Squires (1927). Kellogg disagreed with that interpretation, and in two replies published in the American Journal of Psychology (1931c, 1934), he argued that the wolf children, and others like them, were probably born of normal intelligence. Indeed, it was unlikely that they would otherwise have been capable of survival. From his environmentalistic perspective he contended that these children learned to be wild animals because that was exactly what their environment demanded of them. He believed in the strong impact of early experience and the existence of critical periods in development, and he maintained that the problem with civilizing feral children was the difficulty of overturning the habits learned early in life. [from p. 466 of Benjamin, L. T. & Bruce, D. (1982). From bottle-fed chimp to bottlenose dolphin: A contemporary appraisal of Winthrop Kellogg. The Psychological Record, 32, 461-482.]


The Kellogg's work was not highly regarded by many Psychologists because they felt that the central importance of environmental factors in development was already well established. However, I wonder if the holistic, non-laboratory nature of much of the setup wasn't also a problem for many. Nevertheless, the investigation caught the imagination of the public. The following are two media reports from the 30's when the Kellogg's were first reporting their results:


A 1932 article in The Evening Independent, a St. Petersburg, Florida, newspaper


A 1933 article in Time Magazine


This twelve-minute film shows Donald and Gua in some of the various comparisons that the Kellogg's made between them.


Gua is not the only chimpanzee to be home reared. Keith and Catherine Hayes raised a chimpanzee named Viki in their home in the late 40's. A  report on her intellectual development over the first three years of her life is available in their article The Intellectual Development of a Home-Raised Chimpanzee.


The research of both the Kellogg's and the Hayes' raises questions about the possibility of language development in animals other than humans. I discuss a few aspects of this topic in the March 10 lecture, and we will pursue the topic of language in apes further in a few weeks. If you are eager to pursue the issue now, some basics are available on this website.



Possible future addition for this page:

I haven't read the following book review yet, but I have made a note of it so that I don't forget about it. I think it will be interesting to see what a psychoanalyst has to say about the Kellogg's investigation:


Gosselin, R. (1933). The ape and the child. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2, 643-645. (BF 173 A2 P7, a review of the Kellogg's book)