Thinking Critically About Koko the Gorilla


This activity is intended to help participants become better critical thinkers.

Participants first watch a brief video that appears to show Koko's amazing ability to communicate (using sign language) with humans (Robin Williams and Mister Rogers). They are then asked how much they think Koko communicates the way humans do (1-10 scale).

Participants are then presented with three videos intended to make them re-think their position once they learn a little about how animals are trained using reinforcement, and how humans can easily give even inanimate objects human qualities (anthropomorphism).

The last step involves asking participants to answer the same question they answered earlier about Koko's abilities. Participants can then compare before and after responses.

Instructional Objective: critical thinking is difficult to teach and to learn. Instead of directly teaching the skills of critical thinking, this activity moves participants through an experience that forces them to re-appraise their original stance on a topic - an important part of critical thinking.

Tools Employed:

  • A Google Site was used to contain the 7 pages in the study.

  • Google Forms were used to gather participants' assessment of Koko's abilities before and after watching videos.

  • Google Spreadsheets collected the data from the Forms and this data was embedded into the Results page of the Google Site.

  • Youtube: four videos from YouTube are embedded into the activity

  • Interactive Video: A video of Koko was made into an interactive video in which viewers are asked if they noticed specific behaviors. Viewers can elect to skip backwards to review. The Interactive video component from H5P was used.