Abstract # 87:

Scheduled for Thursday, August 17, 2006 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: Session 8 (Regency West 1/3 ) Poster Presentation

Development of social gestures in chimpanzees

V. L. Maguire and K. A. Bard
University of Portsmouth, UK, Psychology - King Henry Bldg., Centre for the Study of Emotion, Portsmouth, Hants PO1 2DY, United Kingdom
     Communication research in non-human primates has focused on vocalizations because of the more obvious evolutionary links with human language. Recently nonvocal communication has been investigated to understand the mechanisms by which gestures are learned. Here we report on data collected from a unique setting in which gestures, postures, facial expressions, and eye gaze of young chimpanzees developed during interactions with human research assistants who were specially trained to respond to communicative intentions. Two questions were asked of the resulting data; 1) were there individual differences in the form of the gestures (e.g., did an appeasement gesture look the same when exhibited by each of the chimpanzees); and 2) were the same behaviors used flexibly across contexts (e.g., could the gesture ‘wrist present’ be used in multiple contexts). All 16 infant chimpanzees acquired 8 of the 9 social manners gestures during the first year of life. Two of the 8 (25 %) gestures were found to be rigid (only occurring with one communicative meaning). An additional 29 gestures were observed during the course of the study. The form of the gestures did not differ between individuals. This study provides developmental milestones for social gestures, postures, and facial expressions not previously known for captive nonlanguage-trained chimpanzees. Future comparisons with chimpanzee infants from other captive contexts will allow for specification of universal and group-specific gestures in chimpanzees.