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File:Roger S. Fouts.jpg

Roger S. Fouts delivering Washoe's Eulogy

Roger S. Fouts (born June 8, 1943) is an American primate researcher. He is co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) in Washington, and a professor of psychology at the Central Washington University. He is best known for his role in teaching Washoe the chimpanzee to communicate using a set of signs take from American sign language.[1]

Fouts is an animal rights advocate, citing the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act as a model for legal rights for the Great Apes (Hominidae),[1] and campaigning with British primatologist Jane Goodall for improved conditions for chimpanzees. He has written on animal law and on the ethics of animal testing.[2] He is also an adviser to the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.[3]

He is married to Deborah Fouts, who is also co-director of CHCI.

Early life

Fouts was born in Sacramento, California. He received his B.A in child psychology from the college that became California State University, Long Beach a few years later. In 1964, he married Deborah Harris, who [4] became his life-time collaborator. Fouts earned his Ph.D. from the University of Nevada, Reno.


In 1967, Fouts' career took a decisive turn after it was almost derailed by a disastrous job interview with Dr. Allen Gardner in Reno, Nevada. However, Washoe, a chimpanzee, took an immediate liking to Roger, and leapt into his arms. A few days later he was told he had got the job.[5] In 1970 the project with Washoe and the Gardners relocated to the Institute of Primate Studies in Norman, Oklahoma.

The Gardners and Fouts taught the chimpanzees signs from American Sign Language (ASL) by modeling (demonstration and getting the chimps to imitate) and by direct manipulation, where they arranged the chimpanzees' hands into the required shapes. As the studies progressed, they found that the animals used ASL to communicate with each other. The apes created phrases from combinations of signs to denote new things that were brought into their environment. Loulis, Washoe's adopted son, learned basic ASL and over 70 signs directly from Washoe, without human involvement.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 FAQ, The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, Central Washington University.
  2. Fouts, Roger S.; Fouts, Deborah H. & Waters, G. (2002) "The ethics and efficacy of biomedical research in chimpanzees with special regard to HIV research" in A. Fuentes & L. Wolfe, Primates face to face: Conservation implications of human-nonhuman primate interconnections, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 45-60.
  3. "Advisers", Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, accessed 25 May 2012.
  4. Lynch, Kristin. "Roger Fouts", Muskingum College.
  5. "September, 1967 - Roger Fouts joins Project Washoe - University of Nevada in Reno, Nevada", Friends of Washoe.

Further reading

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