The Ape and The Child

A Research Project Conducted at Orange Park Florida
(1931 - 1932)

The Ape and The Child
A Comparative Study of the Environmental Influence Upon Early Behavior

W.N. Kellogg
Associate Professor of Psychology,
Indiana University

L.A. Kellogg
Hafner Publishing Company
New York and London
(Facsimile of the 1933 edition)


Text below indicated by B&B is from Benjamin and Bruce (1982)


No investigation in Kellogg's career brought him more attention than did the study involving the rearing of his infant son Donald with an infant chimpanzee, Gua. The study is well documented in the 336 pages that comprise The Ape and the Child. (B&B p. 465)
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. (B&B, p. 466)



One way to test this hypothesis would be to place a human infant of normal intelligence in an uncivilized environment and to observe systematically its 'development' in that environment. Kellogg noted that while such an experiment would be both morally outrageous and illegal, there was another way, albeit somewhat indirect, to test the environment-heredity question. That was to take a wild animal and place it in the civilized environment of a human home (Kellogg & Kellogg, 1933). Thus began the attempt to produce this unusual experiment. (B&B p. 466)

Kellogg wanted to use an experimental subject that was very young before the animal could acquire a repertoire of infrahuman modes of responding. He wanted a situation that would assure that the animal was always treated as a human and never as an animal, particularly a pet. That is, it was not to be fed from a dish on the floor or scratched behind its ears Interaction's with the animal were to be full-time.( B&B p. 467)

The plan for Kellogg's experiment was outlined in a Psychological Review (1931b) article in which he wrote:

Suppose an anthropoid were taken into a typical human family at the day of birth and reared as a child. Suppose he were fed upon a bottle, clothed, washed, bathed, fondled, and given a characteristically human environment; that he were spoken to like the human infant from the moment of parturition; that he had an adopted human mother and an adopted human father . . . . The experimental situation par excellence should indeed be attained if this technique were refined one step farther by adopting such a baby ape into a human family with one child of approximately the ape's age.(p.168) (B&B pgs. 467 - 468)

...Kellogg arranged a leave of absence from Indiana University, and with a grant secured from the Social Science Research Council, he, Luella, and infant son Donald moved to Florida, near the Yale Anthropoid Experiment Station at Orange Park. Through a special agreement with Robert Yerkes, they were able to obtain a young female chimpanzee, Gua. Gua was 7 1/2 months old when the Kelloggs acquired her. At that time, Donald was 10 months of age. Kellogg regretted the fact that the chimp was not younger, but given the difficulties of acquiring young apes, he had little choice. (B&B p. 468)

For the next nine months, Winthrop and Luella served as experimenters in a project that demanded 12 hours a day from the two of them, seven days a week. With a few exceptions necessary "to meet the indispositions of the infants or experimenters," the schedule remained unchanged. Winthrop Kellogg was concerned that the experiment measure up to his demands. There was nothing he could do about the age differential between Donald and Gua, nor about the fact that Qua was not obtained shortly after her birth. Nevertheless, he would conduct his experiment as no other prior investigation with apes. He would maintain identical rearing conditions for his two experimental subjects. Further, he would use a variety of tasks to test his infants, not only on a comparative basis but also in looking at developmental sequences within each of them. Lastly, he would maintain sufficient scientific detachment to be able to evaluate objectively the data he was collecting.

So for nine months, Donald and Gua were tested daily on such things as blood pressure, memory, body size, scribbling, reflexes, depth perception, vocalization, locomotion, reactions to tickling, strength, manual dexterity, problem solving, fears, equilibrium, play behavior, climbing, obedience, grasping, language comprehension, attention span, and others. (B&B p. 469)

The Ape and the Child is clearly a book about an ape. It was the chimp who was the primary object of study; she was the experimental subject while Donald served as the control subject. This was a study designed to answer a question that was beyond the scope of other investigations. ( B&B p. 470)

Back to the Index 



Back to the Index 

Back to the Kellogg Home Page