Did Koko the gorilla actually take and pass the same cognitive test that President Trump is said to have "aced"?
Person, woman, man, camera, TV; five words that have haunted Americans since President Donald Trump—whose psychological well-being has come into question on several occasions—once again trotted out a brag he's shared countless times in the past: he took a cognitive test and "aced" it. The 74-year-old found the perfect excuse to bring it up for the umpteenth time when talking to Fox News medical correspondent Dr. Marc Siegel during an interview last week, claiming that he requested the cognitive test "a little less than a year ago" after critics questioned his mental fitness.
"If you're in the office of the presidency, we have to be sharp," he said. "It was 30 or 35 questions. The first questions are very easy, the last questions are much more difficult. It's like, you'll go, 'Person, woman, man, camera, TV." So, they'd say, 'Could you repeat that?' So, I said, yeah — person, woman, man, camera, TV." He went on to explain that he had to recall the phrase again later during the test and scored "extra points" because he remembered the words in order. "They say, 'Nobody gets it in order,'" he said, referring to the doctors. "It's actually not that easy, but for me it was easy. And that's not an easy question. They say, 'That's amazing. How did you do that?' I do it because I have, like, a good memory. Because I'm cognitively there."
It goes without saying that the internet had a field day with the whole thing; making memes, demanding t-shirts bearing the words "person, woman, man, camera, TV," and creating the hilarious Cell Block Tango parody seen above. One particular internet theory about the test—which is believed to be the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test, a cognitive screening test for memory loss or early dementia, really took off on social media—one that Koko the gorilla took and passed the same test Trump did.
For the uninitiated, Koko the gorilla became an international celebrity during the course of her life through mastery of sign language. According to The Gorilla Foundation, born on July 4, 1971, at the San Francisco Zoo, Koko became the subject of the longest continuous experiment ever undertaken to teach language to another species. Under the care of researcher Francine Patterson for over four decades of her life, the ape reportedly built a vocabulary of more than 1,000 signs and the ability to understand 2,000 words of spoken English. But did Koko take the cognitive test Trump is so proud of having passed?
Docs don't give a cognitive test to measure intellect. We give it to assess cognitive defects. Trump calling questions on this test difficult should raise some red flags about dementia and inability to serve. pic.twitter.com/4cAmhC5Zpu— Ankur Dave, MD (@AnkurDaveMD) July 19, 2020
According to IFL Science, it seems highly unlikely. Although Koko was administered a lot of tests in her lifetime, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test would've been an odd choice as it is designed to assess cognitive decline in humans. But could she have passed it had she taken the test? Again, seems unlikely. Koko reportedly had an IQ in the 70-90 range which, if compared to a human child her age, would be deemed slow for her age. That said, there are parts of this particular test that Koko could've "aced."
"In some types of questions, Koko did better than human counterparts of her age. At age four-and-one-half, she scored better than the average child of six in her ability to discriminate between same and different, and in her ability to detect flaws in a series of incomplete or distorted drawings," Patterson wrote of Koko in her book The Education of Koko. "She astonished me with her ability to complete logical progressions like the Raven's Progressive Matrices test." On the other hand, in subjects such as the verbal section or pathfinding, she may not have fared as well.
"Koko generally performed worse than children when a verbal rather than a pointing response was required. When tasks involved detailed drawings, such as penciling a path through a maze, or precise coordination, such as fitting puzzle pieces together. Koko’s performance was distinctly inferior to that of children," Patterson wrote. In conclusion, as disappointing as it is, Koko for President is just an unfulfilled internet dream.