Nim Chimpsky is the subject of a new documentary that has recently hit the cinemas. Project Nim documents Herbert Terrace’s 1970’s research into the acquisition of language in non-humans. Nim, a chimpanzee named after linguist Noam Chomsky, was raised as a human in a study designed to put the nature-nurture debate regarding language to the ultimate test. The film, based on the book The Chimp Who Would Be Human by Elizabeth Hess, looks like a must see for budding Psychologists.
There’s enough in the trailer for the film to act as a stimulus for discussion about the use of animals in investigations, the nature-nurture debate and the research process more broadly, even if language acquisition is not part of the curriculum for your spec. This could also be used as part of an introduction to Psychology, where you want to generate intrigue and interest. Encourage students to seek out the film (might need to wait for DVD!) and ask those that do so to lead a discussion with their class in response.