Koko Knows Her Colors!

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Photographer: Ron Cohn

Videographer: Ron Cohn

Source: KokoArch Video 772

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It’s 1973 and 2-year-old gorilla Koko is sitting on the counter of her kitchen at the San Francisco Zoo. In front of Koko are some small toy pieces of various colors. Penny is working with Koko on color signs. First Penny signs “red” and then Koko does the same, and then picks up the red pieces. Next Penny signs “black” and helps mold Koko’s hands into the sign for “black”.

Koko picks up all the black pieces. Lastly they move on to white. Koko is using color signs and sorting colors. Sorting is a skill that emerges in human great apes around 3 years old and is a sign of cognitive development that requires decision-making, fine motor skills and categorizing.

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