Duane Rumbaugh was born in Iowa in 1929. He earned an MA from Kent State University and a PhD at the University of Colorado where he studied experimental psychology. He has been a leading researcher in the field of comparative psychology and the relationship between intelligence and language since his career began in 1958 at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego State College. His focus has been on primate research (both human and nonhuman), to further the understanding of both the great apes and ourselves. He is well known for the establishment of the LANA (language analogue) Chimp Language Project in 1971. The project, which incorporates the use of symbols and lexigrams, employs Dr. Rumbaugh’s innovation of computer-monitored keyboards that examine how primates acquire language. Rumbaugh and his wife, Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, cofounded Georgia State University’s Language Research Center in 1981, which Rumbaugh directed for 20 years. Rumbaugh is currently Regent’s Professor Emeritus in GSU’s Department of Psychology and Biology. Rumbaugh’s interests in understanding our primate cousins and the similarities of how we learn and develop led him to join the Great Ape Trust of Iowa where he coordinates academic and community relations.
Rumbaugh’s research draws heavily on the concepts of early cognitive development in both apes and young humans in his studies of language competency. Through his study of children and young adults with learning disabilities, Rumbaugh claims that experience in the early cognitive stages of both human and nonhuman primates is a key component in learning language. Rumbaugh’s research shows that both human and nonhuman primate brains look for patterns, craving to structure their environments. From these patterns emerge what Rumbaugh terms “emergent” behavior, or behavior that does not follow any set pattern. Emergent behavior is not predictable or set by any type of reinforcement. Rumbaugh has said that “primates (both human and non) have the ability to manifest intelligence because they compute their experience relative to the here and now, and try to optimize, to do things efficiently, which means to do things in creative ways.”
- Rumbaugh, D. M. (1977). Language learning by a chimpanzee: The LANA project. New York: Academic Press.
- Rumbaugh, D. M., & Washburn, D. A. (2003). Intelligence of apes and other rational beings. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.