Köhler’s Anthropoid Research Station, Circa 2011

In 1913, Gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Köhler moved from Germany to the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. In Puerto de la Cruz on the island of Tenerife, Köhler assumed the directorship of the Prussian Academy of Science Anthropoid Research Station where he conducted important early work on tool use in apes. Famous images from Köhler’s ape research include that of apes stacking wooden crates to reach bananas hanging out of research. His research with apes led him to argue that it was insight rather than trial-and-error that allowed apes to problem solve. In 1917 he published his findings as the book, The Mentality of Apes.

Today the Tenerife research station still exists, but in a state of disrepair. The station has been classified as a cultural interest site by the Spanish government and the Wolfgang Köhler Association is working toward the site’s restoration. The videos above show the site as it exists today, interspersed with film clips from Köhler’s original research and is it part of an ongoing documentary project, INSIGHT. Though the film’s audio is in Spanish, the images are striking.

Tip ‘o the hat to Gabriel Ruiz for bringing these videos to AHP’s attention during a recent discussion on the Cheiron (the International Society for the History of the Behavioral and Social Sciences) and Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association) listserves.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

One thought on “Köhler’s Anthropoid Research Station, Circa 2011

  1. Yes, I am trying to track down the original footage that was shot of Kohler working with his apes at Tenerife. It is posted on you tube but we need to see if we can find the rights holder and also if original material still exists – Vintage Kohler Sultan (chimpanzee) experiment – any leads or info is much appreciated. This if for a documentary project being done in the U.S. Thank you.

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