Dr. Rob Schumaker  /  Great Ape Trust via AP
Knobi, a 25-year-old female orangutan, checks out her new home at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa in February.
updated 4/5/2005 9:30:39 AM ET 2005-04-05T13:30:39

An international team of researchers will study social interaction at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa this spring to learn more about human forgiveness and the process of culture, officials with the research center said.

Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, lead scientist, said the four-month project studying bonobos will be funded by a $125,000 grant from the Richmond, Va.-based Campaign for Forgiveness Research.

"By looking at how apes learn to channel certain abilities such as forgiveness, our understanding of these processes becomes infinitely deeper," she said.  "We cannot gain this depth of understanding by only looking at humans because we are too close to these processes in ourselves to objectify them."

Savage-Rumbaugh said many people believe forgiveness is a concept which only applies to humans.  The research center's hypothesis is that it is not a process of species, and that like other social behaviors, "forgiveness is a set of patterned interactions that can be imparted to a group by how its newest members are treated," according to a news release.

Taking part in the program will be bonobos that will arrive at the Great Ape Trust this spring from the Language Research Center at Georgia State University.

The forgiveness research program is expected to be completed in late summer.

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