Abstract # 124:

Scheduled for Saturday, June 19, 2010 09:15 AM-09:25 AM: Session 20 (Medallion Ballroom B) Oral Presentation


C. R. Menzel and J. W. Kelley
Georgia State University, Language Research Center, Decatur, GA 30034, USA

The ability of nonhuman primates to transmit information about resources that are displaced in space and time, and completely out of view, is poorly understood and has seldom been analyzed experimentally. Roles of memory and environmental context in communication were studied through an example of coordinated activity between an adult female, symbol-competent chimpanzee, “Panzee,” and her caregiver. Panzee watched as an experimenter hid multiple objects in the woods outside her outdoor enclosure. After a delay >20 minutes, Panzee interacted with a caregiver inside the building. The caregiver knew the locations of the objects but not their types. The caregiver “queried” Panzee by pointing in the respective directions, literally toward the interior wall of the building. The caregiver’s task was to deduce the type of object outside the building in each direction, from Panzee’s lexigram use, manual pointing, and other expressive behavior. The caregiver correctly deduced the type of object in 19 of the first 20 locations. In further tests, objects were shown to Panzee both inside and outside the building and the caregiver’s inferences remained highly accurate. The findings suggested that Panzee could recall specific information about objects in particular locations in invisible areas, that she could “read” her caregiver’s directional pointing, and that she could discriminate between multiple spatial contexts. Research supported by HD38051 and HD056352, the Leakey Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.