(born June 8, 1943 in Sacramento, California) is a primate researcher and co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI) in Washington. He is a professor of psychology at the Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. In 1967, as a graduate student, Roger Fouts joined the project that taught chimpanzee Washoe
to use American Sign Language (ASL).
Fouts 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.
As Deborah Fouts
she became a life-time collaborator. He 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 took an immediate liking to Roger, and leapt into his arms. A few days later he was told he had got the job.
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 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.
Dr. Fouts proved that a community of ASL-speaking chimpanzees (including Washoe herself) was spontaneously using this language as a part of their inner communication system. The evidence has also shown that Loulis, Washoe's adopted son, learned basic ASL skills and over 70 signs directly from his chimpanzee adoptive mother, without human teaching.
In 1980, the Fouts moved to Washington state with Washoe and two other chimpanzees to a new facility with four rooms for the chimps. 1993, his wife and he completed the CHCI as a new home and research center for the language-using chimpanzees.
Fouts advocates the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act as a model for legal rights for the Great Apes (Hominidae).
[Jane Goodall for improved treatment and conditions for chimpanzees. He co-wrote an article on "The evolving legal status of chimpanzees" in Animal Law. He has also written on the ethics of animal research . He has been a consultant or adviser on four movies, including The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984). IMDB]
Selected References and Bibliography